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Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

Chepstow, Wales...
posts: 2
reviews: 3
Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

Hi all, had the misfortune to travel through Terminal 3 on the evening of Monday 3 December. The queue for security was so long that it was almost impossible to see where it began! Arriving 3 hours prior to your departure time was not enough. They then had the ridiculous solution of moving people to a different queue as they got to within 60 minutes of the their flight departure time - hmmm! on that basis, wouldn't you just not bother to wait endlessly in the main queue (which seemed to be going absolutely nowhere) but simply join the 60 minute queue at a later stage???!!!!!

The whole thing seemed totally disorganised with none of the proper systems and processes in place that organisations would normally use to facilitate efficient and effective queuing and processing of large numbers of people. I saw no evidence of any proper leadership or operational management and working arrangements just looked chaotic. It must also be affecting the departure slots for airlines as well as revenue for airside shops and restaurants as most people gave up all hope of any time for airside shopping, relaxing or dining.

This is totally unacceptable for a major international airport anywhere in the world and should be regarded as an absolute disgrace.

25 replies to this topic
posts: 40,490
reviews: 84
1. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

Wonder what was going on there then? My last time was about 6 weeks ago and it was fine (about 9am, not evening), but a couple of years ago I took someone there and the queue for security literally came out of the building.

Did there seem to be very few xray scanners working or something? Or fewer staff because it was evening? Or perhaps a security alert and they were checking more than usual. Which I recall that they did start hand inspecting more bags perhaps 3 or so months ago but hadn't read of it causing more queues but perhaps it had now?

This is why you've got to laugh when people come here and ask "do I REALLY need to be at the airport 3 hours ahead?

Have you emailed anyone at BAA with your complaint? Would be interesting to see what they say. Or try your MP.

Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Hong Kong, Osaka
posts: 32,706
reviews: 76
2. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

Normally, you don't need 3 hours unless you are flying at a known inefficient airport, or if you an claiming tax refund. Unfortunately, LHR outbound really is one of the airports with the occasional foul-up. BAA is simply poor.

Calgary, Canada
posts: 2,797
reviews: 41
3. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

Hmmm I flew out of Terminal 3 on Thursday 6th, clearing security at about 9.30 am, and it was at its usual level of annoyance and disorganization. However it did only take me about 10 minutes of standing around and one effective effort to thwart a queue jumper...

Agree with Joe about the 3 hours. Its just not worth taking a chance on.

London, United...
posts: 15,221
reviews: 23
4. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

I flew into terminal one last week, and there was one person manning the domestic arrivals for uk/ eu and one person for non eu,,,,for at least a couple of hundred passengers who disembarked, and then a second plane turned up, compounding the issue.

Interestingly enough, there was three of them sat at the station in front of the iris scanner, just watching people trickle through and talking together, whilst ignoring the large queues at the other sets of desks ( eu/ non eu) . I was very, very surprised at the very poor use of manpower and did actually wonder, as i waited and looked around, what had went wrong. It looked like a lack of management oversight.

On the way back out, it was disorganised, yes, but the key issue was two security officers were having a loud argument in each others face, at the end of the security station i was coming through, so i had the joy of listening to them as i put my belongings back together, as they were about two feet away from me, a third officer tried to break it up. the public fight surprised the hell out of me, more than the poor manpower planning on the way in, but I got through in a reasonable time, which is what I guess matters.

However it really is very unprofessional for security staff to have a loud, in your face argument in the security hall with each other.

All in, I can say it was a surprisingly unprofessional display put on. And I genuinely mean surprising, as on all my trips through heathrow, which is hundreds, I have never seen this level of unprofessionalism and poor management before.

Denver, Colorado
Destination Expert
for Pecs, Budapest
posts: 3,878
reviews: 6
5. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

In my travels through LHR in the last several years, I've always found the security check to be the biggest source of worry. Sometimes the securtiy lines aren't too bad and move fraitly decently. At other times thay are horrendous. And at T5 one has the additionsl problem of having to clear security a minimum of 35 minutes befroe gate closure.

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 15,895
reviews: 5
6. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare


It sounds like you were unlucky. The first thing I did when I read your post was go back through the UK newspaper websites as they usually jump on the slightest delay for sensational headlines. Nothing!

I'm no fan of Heathrow or BAA, especially for transit. But every now and again airports around the world land you with horrendous security, immigration, customs etc issues. At the end of October it took me an hour to clear customs (yes, just customs, not including immigration) at Los Angeles, with the same frantic "join this line if you have a connection within an hour".

Chepstow, Wales...
posts: 2
reviews: 3
7. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

Sadly, I don't think our experience on 3 Dec was a 'one off'' as I have found a number of other similar complaints for other dates in December. I fully appreciate the need for effective security but this was not the way to achieve it. It is really not difficult to put in place simple and effective processes that minimise queuing times and ensure that all necessary checks are carried out in the most efficient way. Organisations whose revenue depends on 'processing' large numbers of people do it all the time and I have seen many of the techniques in place in other airports. If evenings are 'peak flow' times, it is all the more important to make sure that everything is in place to manage high volumes. This was inexcusable.

London, United...
posts: 15,221
reviews: 23
8. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

I actually agree with Denise, and although its endemic across different airports across the world ie I have departed at Dulles and found I have had to run to the gate as I would have missed the flight due to the excessive queues, three hours was not enough, I am really not sure there is an excuse for the regularity of it happening at major airports across the world.

Unless planes are diverted into them, then the airport knows how many passengers it will be processing in any given time frame, as such, when we hit situations where it takes a couple of hours to get through security, then something is wrong in the resource planning, for it to go wrong to this extent, it's not just a sudden one or two members of staff calling in sick or not turning up to work, it's not having the staff available to process in the first place.. And that's not excusable if it happens regularly, which it does.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for London
posts: 46,110
reviews: 14
9. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

I used T3 at the end of October, arriving there at about 1330 on a Saturday. The check in desks and surrounding areas were busy, and the queues for Security were long; I waited about half an hour from joining the queue to going airside.

But it wasn't HAL (BAA are devolving; it's now Heathrow Airport Limited) who were responsible for the slow process but other pax. Although there was little to do but watch the queue move and the process involved, more than half those waiting didn't seem to grasp the basics: jackets off, laptops out of bags, shoes off, the usual carnival that is airport Security.

Staff were plentiful, as extra hand baggage checks were in force, but far too many pax were clueless. That the prep area is small didn't help, but that's not going to change as T3 won't be with us for too much longer.

LHR operates at 98% capacity most days. T3 has been in use since the 1960s and wasn't designed for the number of pax it sees in 2012. The airport operators should be prepared for pax numbers and ensure that Security is staffed accordingly, but staff numbers cannot take into consideration pax who aren't au fait with the process.

It's a less than brilliant combination, especially at an airport as busy as LHR.

posts: 7,091
reviews: 21
10. Re: Heathrow Terminal 3 security nightmare

but staff numbers cannot take into consideration pax who aren't au fait with the process. <<<<<

Then again passenger behaviour is no different to any other airport in the world. Passengers not being au fait does not only apply to Heathrow - along with passenger numbers, passengers not being au fait should also be taken into account regarding staffing numbers.

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