Leaving on a jet plane: flying out from Heathrow – what you need to know

Plane taking off

If you’re due to fly out from Heathrow for leisure, on business or to get home from a London holiday, then there are a few things about departing from the world’s busiest airport you might want to know. Here’s a selection…


Departure lounges
Often when you reach an airport’s departure lounge, you find you’ve suddenly got a lot of time on your hands, so these are some pointers on what Heathrow’s lounges offer:
• Food and drink – snacks, meals or even three-course fine dining is available thanks to a wide variety of restaurants, bars and eateries

• Shopping – there’s an extraordinary array of retail options (duty- and tax-free) at Heathrow; so much so the airport’s actually won awards for them

• Fancy a massage? – get pampered at a spa

• Work – Wi-Fi is free in the departure lounges and you can charge your laptop and mobile devices too

• Business lounges and VIP treatment – escape the crowds by booking into secluded, quieter areas by spending a bit more than the average traveller.

When should you board?
Maybe the most important Heathrow departures information? The gate for each flight tends to be confirmed around 45 minutes before it’s due to depart. In case there’s a change at the last minute, it’s best to remain in the departure lounge until the signs inform you to ‘go to gate’. Just remember then (especially if you’ve been staying nearby before you fly out – at, say, a hotel near Heathrow airport – Park Grand London Heathrow) not to leave it too late before you set out and make it through check-in, security and to the departure lounge!

Concierge service
Heathrow’s ‘Meet & Assist’ service is laid on for those who can spare a little more expense to ease them through the departure experience. It’s designed to be tailored for your needs; whether you and your whole family’s flying out, for instance, or even whether you’re a non-English speaker. The service includes:
• A kerbside greeting or on the platform of the Heathrow Express

• Help with baggage, check-in and VAT reclaim (if necessary)

• Smooth escorting through security

• Highlighting and suggesting options in the departure lounge to ensure you get the most out of it

• Escorting you to your gate

Spectator areas
Finally, if you’re travelling with the kids you may well be interested to learn where, while you wait for your own flight to depart, they (and you) can enjoy that rare experience of watching 747s and their ilk roar down the runway and take off right before your eyes. In which case, the best spots can be found at:
• Terminal 2 – the departure lounge’s Wondertree restaurant

• Terminal 3 – enjoy panoramic runway views from the terminal’s No.1 Traveller Lounge (there is a charge for this, though), as well as at some departure gates

• Terminal 4 – the purpose-built ‘View Heathrow’ observation deck (Gates 15 and 16)

• Terminal 5 – there are good views everywhere, even in the Gordon Ramsay Plane Food and Wagamama restaurants; handy if you’re grabbing some grub before your flight.