With a 10:30 am departure back to Heathrow, I’m up at about 07:15. The hotel receptionist explains the walking route back to the airport – there’s a footbridge a short distance from the hotel, which takes you over the dual carriageway. G-EUUG, the Airbus A320 which brought us here as BA884, overnights at the airport and becomes BA885, the first service to London the following day. It’s often, but not always, the case that BA flights with consecutive flight numbers are the same plane on its outbound and return legs.
The weather outside is fresh and crisp, with are a few signs of recent snow left unmelted in places. In the daylight and following the directions we were given (and not wanting to pay for another 10 minute taxi ride), we easily locate the footbridge over the dual carriageway and after a short walk are back at the terminal.
Henri Coanda Airport
We’ve arrived early at the airport and the BA checkin desks are still closed. We’ve already checked in online for all the segments today, and have mobile boarding passes for the next BA flight, but the other two flights to Phoenix are with American Airlines for which we don’t have boarding passes. To avoid issues later in the event of delays, I always like to be in possession of the whole clutch of boarding passes at the start of the trip. So we hang around landside until the checkin desks open. After verifying our ESTA’s, the agent issues boarding passes for the Heathrow to Philadelphia and Philadelphia to Phoenix segments, so we’re all set.
The terminal at Henri Coanda has a modern feel, and there’s a business class lounge available. It’s comfortable with nice seating, and a good view over the terminal, but food and drink offerings are quite basic – cereal, yoghurt etc. As airline lounges go though, there are much worse, and it passes the time before heading to the gate for boarding.
Bucharest to Heathrow (80 TP)
It’s most definitely well into the category of first world problems, but still a tiny bit annoying when your business class ticket and priority boarding means you are first to board a bus to the plane, which subsequently gets rammed with non-priority passengers meaning you’re last off.
But the flight is smooth and runs to schedule, and passes over some pretty Romanian landscape laced with snow en route. Despite it being a 3 hour flight, it’s not long before we’re landing back at Heathrow T5.
Flight Connections, Heathrow T5 to T3
At Heathrow we’re connecting onto an American Airlines flight to Philadelphia, which means a terminal change from T5 to T3. The Minimum Connection Time (MCT) – the shortest time for which an airline will sell you a ticket – for a T5 to T3 change is set at 90 minutes, but this is generous if you’re familiar with Heathrow, and in any case we have well over 2 hours.
There are a couple of different ways to change from T5 to T3, but it’s not possible to stay airside, and it’s always necessary to re-clear security. The obvious way is to follow the Flight Connections sign and take the bus which runs about every 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can go landside through passport control and take either the Heathrow Express (free between terminals and running every 15 mins) or the Piccadilly Line. Unless there are problems with, or huge queues for the buses, neither of these latter options make much sense. So after a short wait, we’re on the bus to T3 for the next leg of the journey.