If you’re headed to Europe, chances are you’ll probably transfer through London Heathrow at some point. As one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, London Heathrow is a thorough-fare for millions of people every year. In all our years of traveling to Europe, we often find ourselves transferring through this airport and making connections at London Heathrow and we’ve picked up a few tricks and tips to make this easier along the way.
Heathrow is a huge airport with multiple terminals, as well as being the entry point to the UK so even when transferring intra-Europe, it’s still more time consuming since you have to redo the UK security checkpoint. When all is said and done, it’s not super easy to transfer at Heathrow, but it’s doable with the right preparation and knowing what you’re doing. So if you have travel plans making connections at London Heathrow, here are my best tips:
- Give yourself at least 90 minutes, no less. -
I’m always trying to shorten our layover times in airports because really, who wants to sit for 5 hours waiting for a flight? But in truth, sometimes and at certain airports it’s necessary to give yourself ample time to connect to another flight. (LAX is the same as this by the way.) At Heathrow, you’ll need NO LESS than 90 minutes for connections. And seriously, don’t try to book a connection with less time than that… you’ll miss your flight.
So when booking connecting flights from Heathrow on to wherever else you’re heading, be sure to plan into your itineraries at least 90 minutes to change planes. That way you’re safe even if you’re flight is late and you won’t have to be sprinting through the terminal!
- Know if you'll need to change terminals. -
Be aware before you land if you’ll need to change terminals as this will greatly impact how much time you need to connect at Heathrow. For example on this past trip, we arrived on American Air but flew British Airways to Paris, landing in Terminal 5 and departing from Terminal 7. If you’ll need to change terminals for your connection, you have to take a bus which takes about 20 minutes to get you from point A to point B. After the bus drops you off, then you’ll need 45 minutes or more to get through immigration and security checkpoints and on to your gate.
- Try not to check luggage... if you do, your connection time shouldn't be less than 2.5 hours. -
A trick at Heathrow, don’t check luggage if you’re connecting. Or if you have to, you’ll need to add time to your layover. I would suggest no less than 2.5-3 hour layovers at Heathrow if you’re checking luggage. The reason for this is that if you are checking luggage, land at Heathrow, you’ll have to collect your luggage, check it back in and then go through all the immigration and security checks on top of that. So if you can, do carry on only if you’re connecting through Heathrow or add time to your connection.
- Know you'll have to go through security again. -
Because you're going through UK checkpoints, you'll have to clear a quick immigration (just quickly looking at your passport) and security again once landing in the UK before continuing on. And this can take a ton of time so be aware that you'll have to clear security again before your connection.
- Ask to use the FastTrack line at immigration and security if you're running late. -
If you’re running late (like we were recently) and might miss your flight, you can try to speed up your connection time by asking to use the FastTrak lane although in our experience it didn’t do much for us and we almost missed our flight anyways. But it’s worth a shot if it looks shorter than the regular lines for immigration and security.
- Check out Duty Free if you have time. -
If you have time, Heathrow has some of the best shopping of any airport in the world and their Duty Free shops are particularly great. I never miss the opportunity to pick up my favorite Fortnum and Mason tea while at Heathrow as well as so many other amazing British and International products. But make sure you have time and won’t miss your flight to stop and check out Duty Free!