Luxe Layovers: LHR

Remember the days when the thought of an airport layover brought shudders and a sense of dread? Today’s airports are breaking out of that mold — and breaking all the old rules — to offer bespoke services to modern travelers. From luxury lounges, modern spas and art museums to wine bars, gourmet restaurants and markets filled with fresh produce, airports around the world are revolutionizing the travel experience. Discover a new place each month for your next luxe layover.

London Heathrow, United Kingdom: LHR

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London Heathrow Airport (LHR), located about 17 miles west of central London, started out in 1930 as a private airport—Fairey’s Great West Aerodrome—with one grass runway, used for assembling and testing new aircraft. During World War II, the British government acquired Fairey’s private airport, as well as land in the village of Heath Row as a base for British troops. In 1946, the land was given to the Air Ministry as London’s new civil airport, originally called London Airport. The first commercial flight left London Airport bound for Buenos Aires.

The first passenger waiting areas at LHR were tents equipped with floral armchairs, settees and tables (set with real flowers). But there was no heat. Passengers were bitterly cold in winter, but it was evidently quite nice in the summer months when tent sides were opened up to allow in breezes.

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By 1951, when nearly 800,000 passengers flew through the airport, work began on the first permanent passenger terminals and control tower. Original terminals were the Europa Building (later renamed Terminal 2, which was replaced in 2014 with the new T2: The Queen’s Terminal) and the Oceanic Terminal (now Terminal 3). Terminal 1 opened in 1969 and by that point, nearly 5 million passengers flew through LHR every year.

During the 1970s, LHR was home to the massive Concorde and more than 27 million passengers flew through the airport annually. Terminal 4 opened in 1986, followed by the massive Terminal 5 in 2008. Today, LHR is the busiest airport in the world, serving more than 72 million passengers every year. It is home to 82 airlines, servicing 180 destinations in 85 countries around the world.

The LHR Terminals

London Heathrow is made up of two major runways and five terminals. Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are fairly close together, while Terminals 4 and 5 are at a bit more of a distance. Understanding how to transfer between terminals and which airlines fly into which terminals can help make your trip through LHR easier—and make a long layover much more fun when you realize you can easily transfer between terminals. Note that terminals 1, 2 and 3 are all within about a 10 minute walk of each other. To get to Terminals 4 or 5 from 1, 2 or 3, you will need to take the Heathrow Express, and it takes about 20 minutes. To get between Terminals 4 and 5, you have to take bus 480 or bus 482, and it takes about 20 minutes.

  • Terminal 1: Opened in 1969, Terminal 1 is showing a bit of age, but it has seen a few recent improvements to modernize its passport control and baggage claim areas, and to add self-service check-in. Currently, there are no flights to/from North America that use T1, but if you connect at Heathrow for a flight on El Al to Israel or are heading to Iceland, you might have to make your way to T1. The entire terminal will be demolished and replaced in 2016.
  • Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal: LHR’s newest and most modern terminal was opened in 2014. The terminal is filled with natural light, has a new modern design and houses some of the airport’s finest shops and restaurants. North American flights on Air Canada, United and Air New Zealand fly in and out of Terminal 2.

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  • Terminal 3: Terminal 3, once known as the Oceanic Terminal, underwent extensive upgrades in 2007. You will now find new self-serve check-in kiosks, a bright modern check-in area and an updated passport control and baggage claim area for arrivals. T3 is home to the majority of flights from North America into LHR, serving American, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic and the Delta flights from/to Seattle, DFW, JFK and LAX.
  • Terminal 4: Although Terminal 4 was built in 1986, it was already due for upgrades in 2007, when a light, modern exterior was created and floor-to-ceiling windows were added to the check-in area. T4 can now accommodate A380 aircraft. The only flights from North America utilizing T4 are Delta flights from Minneapolis and Detroit.

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  • Terminal 5: Terminal 5 was opened in 2008 and is one of Europe’s busiest terminals, as it is home to most (although not all) British Airways flights. Note that some BA flights do originate out of other terminals, so if you are connecting at LHR, double check to see which terminal you will need to fly from for your connection. T5 includes massive glass panels with views over runways, and a new satellite building was recently expanded to help handle traffic. If you are flying British Airways to the USA, you will be flying out of T5.

Airport Clubs & Lounges

Because of its sheer size, LHR has more lounges than most other airports around the globe. Some of the most luxurious lounges are operated by British Airways. Here is a look at some of the lounges you can find at each terminal.

Terminal 1 Lounges

For those who may have flown in and out of Terminal 1 in the past, please note that the Servisair Executive Lounge that has operated out of that terminal closed permanently on January 1, 2015. The only remaining lounges in Terminal 1, which is due to be demolished within the next year, are for those flying first class on British Airlines and El Al, utilizing the British Airways Lounge and the El Al King David Lounge.

Terminal 2 Lounges

The new T2 is the hub for Star Alliance members, as well as Ireland’s Aer Lingus. There are currently seven lounges operating out of the new terminal:

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  • United Club and United Global First Lounge. Both clubs require visitors to be flying first class. The lounge, open 5 am to 10 pm daily, serves free food and beverages, offers free WiFi, business facilities, showers and a wine lounge.
  • Plaza Premium Lounge is the first independent airport lounge at LHR. It is open from 5 am to 11 pm daily, and you can use the lounge regardless of the flight of service you are on. There is a charge to use the lounge, where you can find private relaxation rooms, shower rooms, wellness spa, tapas bar, champaign bar, fresh food and drinks and eight private sleeping suites. For more information, visit plaza-network.com.
  • Aer Lingus Lounge offers showers, meeting rooms, rest areas and a buffet-style restaurant.
  • Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge is a cozy, comfortable setting for those flying first class on Air Canada.
  • Lufthansa Lounge is a large (more than 17,000 square feet) lounge with oak parquet floors, leather arm chairs and backlit walls. There are ample business facilities, WiFi and free food and drink.
  • Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge has productivity pods and a bar counter with great views over the flight line.

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Terminal 3 Lounges

Terminal 3 has several lounges that are open to the public with an entry fee, irregardless of class of service you are flying. There are also numerous airline lounges in T3.

  • No. 1 Traveller Lounge is open 4:30 am to 10:30 pm daily, with the most amenities of any of the public lounges. There are views of runways, a quiet room, mini-cinema, games room, kids’ area, free WiFi, free papers and magazines. You can book a spa treatment for an additional fee or book the private en-suite bedroom. The maximum stay is three hours at the No. 1 Lounge. You can also find a selection of foods. There is a self-service buffet, or you can opt for the bistro and order a hot or cold meal. The tended bar serves free hot and cold drinks, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. Champagne is available for an additional charge.
  • Servisair Executive Lounge is open 5:45 am to 10:15 pm daily, offering free WiFi, phone, fax, charging ports, TVs, newspapers, magazines and free food. You can get yogurt, muffins and pastries in the morning; soup and rolls for lunch and throughout the afternoon; afternoon tea with biscuits, cakes and nuts. You can get free soft drinks and alcohol, but there is an extra charge for champagne.
  • Virgin Atlantic/Delta Upper Class Wing is something special in T3. If you book a first class flight on either Virgin Atlantic or Delta, you can make arrangements from 30 days to 12 hours prior to your flight out of LHR, so this is ideal for your return to the US. You will be met by a chauffeur who will take you to the correct terminal, handle your baggage and boarding pass, then arrange for you to pass through the Virgin Atlantic Private Security Channel for your security screening. After clearing security, you will be escorted to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse to await your flight. There, you can enjoy complimentary food and drinks, free WiFi, comfortable seating and other amenities.
  • American Airlines Admiral Club and Flagship Lounge are both located in T3. The Admiral Club is in the departures area and is available to those flying first class or those who have purchased an Admiral Club membership. There are free showers, WiFi, food, drinks, newspapers and magazines. The Flagship Lounge is located in the arrivals area of T3, and is available only to those who arrive at LHR as Emerald class or who flew first class.
  • Various airline lounges are throughout T3, but are reserved for those flying First or Business class on the airlines. If you find yourself connecting to or flying with British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, SAS or Singapore, you’ll find luxurious lounges for your comfort while awaiting your flight.

Terminal 4 Lounges

There are no public lounges in Terminal 4, but if you are flying first class or have high status on Air India, Etihad, Gulf Air, Malaysia Airlines or Qatar Airways, you will be able to use the lounges for those airlines.

Terminal 5 Lounges

As Europe’s busiest terminal, there are multiple lounges in Terminal 5, most belonging to British Airways and accessible by those flying first class or with top status for the airline and its partner airlines. Anyone with Emerald or Sapphire status in Oneworld Alliance can use the British Airways First, Club World or Club Europe lounges.

British Airways has six lounges in T5, including:

  • Galleries Club Lounges are available in both T5 and the T5 annex, serving fine wines and champagne, along with light meals and snacks. There are work and entertainment zones in both, including a 20-seat cinema. The lounge also has an Elemis Travel Spa where you can book relaxing treatments during your layover.

British Airways Galleries Club Lounge

  • Concorde Room dates back to the golden age of BA’s famed Concorde. This was the lounge where passengers on the Concorde waited. Today, it is open to those booked in First Class on a British Airways flight, or those with Concorde Cards. The Concorde Room is the ultimate in pre-flight luxury, with fine furnishings, chandeliers and artwork. Dining is in private booths with a full wait staff. There are also private cabanas available with day beds and an en-suite. There is a state of the art business suite. You’ll want to make certain you take a cocktail or glass of bubbly out to the terrace, and watch planes come and go before your flight.

British Airways Concorde Room

Restaurants & Bars

London Heathrow is the only airport in Europe with two Michelin starred restaurants. You can find ample fast food, but there are some amazing fine dining restaurants inside LHR. Even the nicest restaurants offer quick menus and they all have “grab-and-go” type menus so you can take your food on board the plane. Here are the best places to please your palate during your layover at LHR:

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  • Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar: this iconic British eatery is in every terminal at LHR. Be sure to try the signature Balik salmon. You can also purchase caviar, chocolate and champagne to go.
  • La Salle: this restaurant, designed like a Paris grand brasserie, serves French food, beer, wine and cocktails.

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  • London’s Pride by Fuller’s: a traditional English pub. The actual brewery is located about 8 miles from LHR, but they’ve brewed a special T2 lager called “Wingman” that is for sale only at the airport.
  • The Flying Chariot: a 2-story pub and restaurant with a “Control Tower” observations deck offering great runway views. You can pick up great food along with craft beers from Windsor and Eton brewery, artisanal gins and organic ciders. This restaurant is located before clearing security, so it’s a perfect spot if you have a long layover and don’t mind going back through passport control.
  • The Gorgeous Kitchen: a collaboration of four talented young female London chefs. Its exhibition kitchen is a signature, as are the innovative dishes.
  • The Perfectionist’s Cafe: the long-awaited eatery by three Michelin-starred Chef Heston Blumenthal. This restaurant serves exceptional food, everything from a full English breakfast and fish and chips to wood fired pizza and liquid nitrogen ice-cream.

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Terminal 3

  • Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar: iconic British eatery in every terminal at LHR. You can also purchase caviar, chocolate and champagne to go.
  • Caviar House Oyster Bar: brings a “little slice of Bond Street” to travelers. The iconic Caviar House Oyster Bar is surrounded by Chanel, Miu Miu, Bulgari and other high end stores. The restaurant serves oysters from around the world, including France, US, Japan and Ireland. You can also get caviar, champagne and fine wines.
  • Oriel French Restaurant & Bar: This is T3’s grande brasserie, with beautiful Art Deco design and dishes to match. The amazing flavors of such classics as coq au vin and confit de canard are guaranteed to arrive at your table in 12 minutes or less. The restaurant also serves classic cocktails.
  • Rhubarb British Restaurant & Bar: serves some classic British tastes with a bit of a twist. You can find pea and mint tortellini and British beef chili here.

Terminal 4

  • Café Rouge: a Vintage Parisian style sets the stage in this restaurant, with its red velvet furniture and checkerboard floor. You can find such classics as 35-day dry aged beef, a bouillabaisse or even a simple croque monsieur.
  • Carluccio’s: offers an array of baked goods and pastries with fine Italian coffee, but it also offers full meals and some unforgettable pasta dishes.
  • Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar: iconic British eatery in every terminal at LHR. You can also purchase caviar, chocolate and champagne to go.

Terminal 5

  • Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar: iconic British eatery in every terminal at LHR. You can also purchase caviar, chocolate and champagne to go.

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  • Carluccio’s: offers an array of baked goods and pastries with fine Italian coffee, but it also offers full meals and some unforgettable pasta dishes.
  • Gordon Ramsay Plane Food: a world-class eatery by Britain’s most famous chef, Gordon Ramsay serves everything from seabags to fish cakes. There is an express menu available, starting at £16.95, which guarantees two courses in 25 minutes.

Shopping

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London Heathrow has one of the best shopping experiences in any international airport. Because of the sheer size of the airport and distance between terminals, LHR has created a personal shopping experience to help you explore everything available in the more than 160 shops, of which 63 are in the new T2. You can relax in the personal shopping lounge and explore items selected for you by the accredited stylist, or have the stylist accompany you on your shopping excursion. If you want something that is only available at a different terminal, your personal shopper can even arrange to transport you to the terminal with the shop you need, time provided. Visit http://www.heathrowairport.com/shop,-eat,-relax-and-enjoy/personal-shopper for details on how to book your personal shopper, which should be done 48 hours before your arrival at LHR.

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If you decide to do your own shopping during your layover, here are highlights of shops available at LHR:

  • Alexander McQueen: luxury ready-to-wear items by the famed designer house (Terminal 4)
  • Bally: luxury Swiss products (Terminals 3 and 4)
  • Boss: men’s luxury collection from Hugo Boss (Terminals 2 and 4)

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  • Bottega Veneta: “Venetian shop” with luxury artisanal leather goods, jewelry, shoes, luggage, gifts (Terminals 2 and 5)
  • Bulgari: Italian jeweler with jewelry, watches, accessories and fragrances (Terminals 2, 3 and 4)
  • Burberry: iconic Burberry products, including trench coats, leather bags, cashmere scarves and eyewear (Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  • Cartier: fine jeweler with jewelry, watches and accessories (Terminals 3, 4 and 5)
  • Cath Kidston: originals from one of Britain’s iconic designers, from china to bed linens, bags, accessories, and travel-inspired items (Terminals 2, 3 and 4)
  • Chanel: luxury fragrance and beauty products (Terminal 3)
  • Dior: luxurious boutique from Christian Dior (Terminal 5)
  • Fortnum & Mason: the first standalone airport store from the iconic travel store, famed for its hampers filled with jams, teas and preserves (Terminal 5)

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  • Gucci: luxury goods, including handbags, shoes, leather goods and jewelry (Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  • Harrods: an array of luxury products from the original Knightsbridge store (Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5)

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  • Harrods Fine Watch Room: this new store is the only location outside the Knightsbridge store showcasing fine luxury timepieces (Terminal 2)
  • Hermès: silk scarves, ties and leather bags (Terminal 3)
  • Jo Malone: colognes, bath oils, lotions, creams and gels, along with complimentary skin treatments (Terminals 3 and 4)
  • John Lewis: A favored British retailer, offering luxury brands such as Barbour and Joules (Terminal 2)
  • Kurt Geiger: the UK’s premier retailer of luxury shoes and accessories (Terminals 2 and 5)

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  • MAC: high-end skincare products and cosmetics, along with free makeup applications (Terminal 3)
  • Michael Kors: luxury items by designer Michael Kors, including handbags, small leather goods, eyewear, jewelry, watches and footwear (Terminals 2 and 4)
  • Miu Miu: Prada’s avant-garde brand (Terminal 3)
  • Montblanc: fine pens and writing accessories (Terminals 3, 4 sand 5)
  • Mulberry: leather goods made in England by 600 local craftsmen and craftswomen (Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  • Paul Smith: creative designer that combines tradition and modernity in clothing and accessories (Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  • Prada: luxury fashions and accessories (Terminal 5)
  • Rolex: luxury time pieces (Terminal 5)
  • Salvatore Ferragamo: Italian designer offering fine leather goods, shoes and accessories (Terminal 4)
  • Smythson: world’s foremost stationer that was established on London’s Bond Street in 1887. Diaries, leather books, journals (Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5)

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  • Thomas Pink: Britain’s leading luxury shirtmaker, where you pick made-to-order or ready-to-wear designs for men’s shirts, along with ties and cufflinks (Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  • Tiffany & Co: fine jewelry and accessories (Terminals 3 and 5)
  • World Duty Free: the ultimate duty free shop, with beauty items, liquor, fashion accessories, whisky and food items (all terminals)
  • World of Whiskies: some of the finest whiskies from around the world (Terminals 3, 4 and 5)

For Fun, Relaxation & Pampering

During your LHR layover, be sure to explore the new T2: The Queen’s Terminal, if time permits. One of the centerpieces of this amazing new terminal is the Slipstream by renowned British artist Richard Wilson. This “near-abstract” sculpture is inspired by vapor trails left by planes. Wilson created the massive sculpture—the longest permanent sculpture in Europe—to welcome visitors to Terminal 2. His silver work of art is 230 feet long and weighs 85 tons (77 metric tons)—which can be a bit intimidating when it is suspended overhead. Even if you don’t have time to exit security at T2, you can see the sculpture from above, as you make your way through international arrivals.

One of the unique things offered at LHR is a selection of beauty services. Between 6 am and 9:30 pm daily, you can enjoy more than 100 free treatments at shops throughout each terminal. For example, you can receive a skincare consultation or learn to apply eyeshadow in a 10-minute session at Dior, enjoy a quick shoulder massage at Cocoon Beauty Sanctuary or receive a complete makeover in a 20-minute complimentary session at  World Duty Free’s Yves Saint Laurent counter. Services can be explored online before you leave home at http://www.heathrowairport.com/shop,-eat,-relax-and-enjoy/relax-and-enjoy/indulge or ask at any of the beauty or salons at the airport.

There are also a few places where you can book a massage to help relieve the stress of traveling. Here are the options at LHR:

  • No 1 Traveller Lounge & Spa: You can head to the lounge in T3 and opt for a massage or other treatment. The Core Revival Package is available for £65 ($102) that includes a 60-minute massage. You can also opt for a 25-minute massage, manicure or pedicure. Additional time in the lounge is available to those booking spa treatments for £10 ($15.75) per hour.
  • Be Relax Classic: This massage center located in T4 offers a range of quick services, from seated massages to manicures, oxygen therapy and aromatherapy.
  • Be Relax Spa: Located in T5, this spa offers the same services, along with some enhancements, in T5.

Want to just sit and watch the runway between flights? Here are some of the best spots at London Heathrow to watch the planes:

  • Terminal 1: Tin Goose Pub-Restaurant, Caffè Nero coffee bar and Costa Coffee near Gate 8
  • Terminal 3: The No 1 Traveller Lounge
  • Terminal 4: Costa Coffee and most seating areas at the gates
  • Terminal 5: Just about everywhere offers great views, but you can get amazing views at Gordon Ramsay Plane Food

Another great feature at London Heathrow is its concierge service. Above, you learned that Virgin Atlantic and Delta offer concierge service to those flying first class on their airlines. However, LHR offers a fee-based concierge service that is available no matter which airline you fly. The concierge will wait for you at your arrival gate, escort you through Border Control, assist with collecting your luggage and escort you to your local transportation, a hotel or your connecting flight.

If you are returning to the airport after a visit to London, the concierge will meet you at the curb, assist with your baggage, escort you through security and to the VIP lounge or your gate. To arrange for the LHR concierge service, email service@heathrowupgrade.com.

Rest Your Head

Most airports have a plethora of hotels nearby, but international travelers often find themselves needing somewhere to rest between flights, whether it’s overnight or simply for a few hours. There are several places now available at LHR that offer either overnight stays or rooms if you need to refresh for a few hours, all without leaving the terminals.

  • No 1 Traveller Bedrooms: While most people head to the No 1 Traveller Lounge in Terminal 3 for a few hours, there are also rooms available if you need a few hours sleep. You can rent either a twin or single room from 6 am to 10:30 pm, although you can’t use the rooms overnight. A single offers one single bed with duvet and soft pillow. Ensuite bedrooms includes a power shower, toilet, shaver point, hairdryer as well as flat screen TV, small desk with internet and free international calls. The minimum stay is three hours with last entry at 7:30 pm. The cost is £20 ($31.45) per hour with a minimum charge of £60 ($94) for three hours. You can also book a twin room with two bunk beds, ideal for a couple traveling together. The charge is £30 ($47) per hour, with a minimum charge of £90 ($142) for three hours.
  • YOTEL: The YOTEL cabin hotel is located in the public area on the Mezzanine level of T4. You must have proper papers to enter Britain and you will need to go back through passport control to return to your connecting flight. The YOTEL contains 32 next-generation cabins with ensuite, free WiFi, a “techno wall” entertainment system, and lighting designed to help alleviate jet lag. The premium contains one full-sized double bed, while the standard contains one large single bed. The charge is £35 ($55) for four hours or £56 ($88) overnight.

There are several full service hotels adjacent to the terminals at LHR that offer a great night’s sleep with all amenities. Most of these hotels have day rates if you want to stay for the day before a late night flight, or can accommodate you even if you arrive very early from the US and need a place to rest up before hitting London or continuing onto a connecting flight. These hotels are connected to the LHR terminals:

There are dozens of hotels within minutes of the airport, and you can either hail a taxi outside the terminal for quick transport to the hotels or use the Hotel Hoppa, which visits Terminals 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and neighboring hotels. The price is £4.50 each way in advance or £5 from the driver. The bus is available from 4 am to midnight daily.

Getting to London

If you have a long layover at LHR, you might want to take a quick jaunt into Central London. There are three easy ways to get quickly into London:

  • Heathrow Express: This modern train runs every 15 minutes from LHR to Paddington station. The trip takes only 15 minutes by high-speed train. The train is equipped with air conditioning, free TV, mobile phone service. You can book a first class seat with larger area, extra legroom, tables, free newspapers and free magazines. Trains leave LHR daily between 5:03 am and 11:58 pm and return from Paddington daily from 5:10 am to 11:25 pm. Cost is £26 ($41) or £39 ($61) roundtrip. First class tickets are £29 ($45.50) one way or £52 ($81.75) roundtrip. You access the Heathrow Express directly from each terminal.

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  • London Underground: The Piccadilly Line runs trains every 10 minutes at most into Central London. This trip takes approximately 1 hour each way. The station is in the central area between terminals 1, 2 and 3 and in the basement of both T4 and T5. A single fare to central London is £5.70 ($9). Trains run from about 5 am to 11:30 pm daily.
  • Heathrow Chauffeur Service: You can book a chauffeured car to take you into central London. the charge is £109.56 ($172) for 3 people in a Mercedes E Class; £130.27 ($204.75) for 3 people in a Mercedes S Class; and £126.12 ($198) for 6 people in a Mercedes Viano.

London Heathrow will be upgrading terminals and will rebuild Terminal 1 starting in 2016. As they prepare for changes, there will be changes to gates and facilities. Be sure to check out heathrowairport.com before you leave home for the most current updates.