Bits: BA to buy Finnair?, new eGates at T5 – or pay £12.50 at Gatwick, free Azimo FX transfers

News in brief:

IAG to buy Finnair?

I mentioned in a throw-away remark in a comment last week that Finnair could be the next airline on the IAG shopping list.  Lo and behold, this article appeared on Skift over the weekend.

It is short on hard facts, of course, but the logic is sound.  In the same way that Aer Lingus allows IAG to direct traffic from the UK regions to North America via a connection in Dublin, Finnair would allow it to direct regional connecting traffic from the UK to Asia.  There is the additional benefit that Finnair serves destinations in Asia which are not currently flown by BA.

It won’t be a quick process but, along with Portugal’s TAP, it does seem to be a logical target.

Epassport gates

New Terminal 5 e-passport gates finally open

The good news for anyone transiting through Terminal 5 is that the 15 new e-passport gates opened at the end of the last week.  These are of a different design to the existing ones and are meant to be quicker and more accurate.  We will see.

To use the e-passport gates, you need to be over 18 and have an e-passport (shown by the ‘chip’ logo on the front), issued by a country in the European Economic Area or Switzerland.

The net effect of these gates has been to make the main queue into a ‘family line’ since there is no logical reason for anyone without children to use it.

Pay £12.50 to bypass the passport queue at Gatwick

Meanwhile, Gatwick Airport has just launched a new solution.  For a fee of £12.50, you can now use a dedicated private line at both Gatwick North and South.

Only 50 people per hour will be allowed to book slots in this queue.  Unless passport officers are now paid in line with barristers, you can see how Gatwick will make a tidy sum from this arrangement.

You can book your slot here.  Children may use the service, which is an improvement on the Terminal 5 e-passport lanes.  Whilst it is easy to make fun of this service – and if you have checked baggage then it is a waste of time – I imagine that many people will be allowed to charge it as a business expense and take up will be OK.  It is open to both EU and non-EU passport holders.

Print

Free foreign currency transfers with Azimo

Finally, Azimo – the cheap foreign currency transfer specialist – is offering ‘no transaction fees’ on all transfers made from today until 1st November.  This is promote their 3rd birthday.  Credit card-funded transfers and SWIFT transfers are excluded.

You can find out more on the Azimo website here.  As fees start from as little as £1, this is only a good deal if you are making a payment to a country where the fee is usually high.

I am currently putting together an article comparing Azimo, TransferWise (the new kid on the block, backed by Richard Branson), Caxton FX and Hi-Fx, but the results so far are not conclusive.  You do need to shop around based on the currency you are transferring, the country to which you are sending the money and the value of the transfer.

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Comments

  1. Azimo was particularly good for Argentina, where they provide a rate close to the illegal black market rates as opposed to the awful legal exchange rates last time I was there.

  2. I used the new gates at T5 last week. There are more of them than the old model but you scan your passport after going through the entrance gate rather than before going in and have to hold your passport in place while it takes your photo. The place to stand is a bit far from the passport scanner, so those with short arms stand too close and not on the foot marks. They are concentrating on holding the passport in place and looking at the camera but don’t notice their feet are in the wrong place. Because of this the machine takes longer to recognize their face.

    • I can’t see without my glasses, but the gates both in the UK and Australia don’t let me through unless I remove them. I’ll probably be confused by the new gates for a while.

      If there is nobody at all in the queue, then it is faster than using the gates if there is a straight path to the human (rather than zig-zagging around the tensas)

      I assume EEA/Swiss citizens who use an ID card to travel still need to see the human?

      • I believe that will still be the case. Fairly annoying, but I just prefer not travel with my EU passport where I can travel easier with the smaller card-size EU ID card. That means though extra time at the line…

  3. I’d be delighted if the Finnair purchase happened, especially with the EDI route – off to HEL to go East or DUB to go West, all we need is APD to go too!

    Glad they’re putting more and better ePassport gates in. UK passports work in Oz on their ePassport gates and they work very well (and help avoid massive queues!) Now if only they’d bring back Fastrack for T5 transfers and actually fix the security queuing issues!

    • My concern is that an AY purchase might spell the end of their £1100ish sales from UK to Asia. I was hoping I could count on a couple of those a year, taking the pressure of my need.to collect avios and remove the hassle of exEU flights. It now looks like we will not see an APD cut before 2017. I am also concerned at the mangemnt at EDI: allowing four carriers on the CPH route will likely be to the detriment of SAS and connecting passenges. Competition is great but needs to be carefully managed from airports where the ceiling on demand is not that high. I’d be happier with no more than one LCC per route out of EDI. I believe GLA used to have such a policy but with Ryanair now there, I’m not sure whether it was the airline or the airport that blinked first.

      • Erico1875 says:

        If the numbers dont stack, you wont need to worry about SAS. Ryanair will pull the plug pronto, t as they did with RAK

      • I think all these new routes, especially letting Ryanair in, is a result of the (welcome) BAA sell off of EDI and GLA who are now able to properly compete with each other. The City Deal funding will allow the construction of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (a tramline wasn’t considered wise ;-)).

        • I would prefer to see the respective operators combine their equity and, with support from government, and create a single new airport someplace near Falkirk to maximise both road and rail connectivity and hopefully povide better travel options overall. I wouldn’t bet on the GLA rail link until it’s up and running. After all. they botched the opportunity to have an EDI rail link in the current rail upgrade, presumbly to save oennies but in truth to avoid further risk to the tram fiasco.

          • funny you mention that, i had a lot of visitors this year from Oz who couldn’t understand the need for 2 international airports so close together. I had a hard time trying to justify it. Mind you Aussies cant comprehend town and cities being so close to each other.

            Dont think the Scottish government will be up for it though, they already own Prestwick!

          • Just explain to them we need them because of all the different accents we have only 50 miles apart 😉

            Agree if planning from scratch a central airport with excellent high speed links would make more sense, seems unlikely it’ll happen now though. The decision to not add a train station at EDI was incredibly shortsighted though, would have been an easy win.

          • That’s all well and good, but GLA is 30 miles from us (Troon) and it’s nightmare enough to get to ‘as is’ so we pay a very reasonable £35 for a taxi – a new airport 20 miles further away would be to the detriment of those living in Ayrshire for sure (well at least those whose aspirations run beyond Palma, Malaga, and the Canaries out of PIK)!

          • I used to live not far from you abd just took train to Paisley then bus or taxi to airport. Didn’t find it particularly painful but taxi fare you have seems worth it for two or more. An airport near Falkirk with rail station would be only 20 minutes from Queen street, but it’s true that the connection from Central where necessay would be a pain. I think still worth it though if it brought nuch improved air travel options.

      • I assume it was you criticising competition before – your argument is still absurd! If the route can only handle one or two operators then soon enough only one or two will remain. I still see no logic in you wanting an artifical restriction on airline numbers – unless you particularly want to fly SAS and don’t feel they can compete?

        • I want people to have the option of flying A-B-C on one ticket with one airline or in conjunctions with its partners. That is in the interests of passengers generally and if it can be achieved by market interference then so be it, I see nothing absurd about it. Clearly BAA didn’t either. And yes, you are absolutely right, I suspect/fear SAS would be the first of the four carriers to go, and no I don’t want that so would prefer it had EDI refused Ryanair access at the the expense of greater competion to protect SAS which can offer A-B-C. The vast majoity of passengers don’t give a toss about corporate profits, market principles or competition, they care about opportunity, cost and conveniemce. It’s perfectly obvious to most that free markets all to often fail to deliver what they want.

          • Of course it’s absurd. Because it’s convenient for YOU to fly A-B-C with one airline (which you’d still be able to do without SAS anyway…) you want to force competing airlines out of the route and therefore force their customers to go with someone else.

            At best that’s incredibly selfish. I personally don’t fly SAS because they’re virtually never the cheapest option – Edinburgh should therefore kick them out so the other airlines can prosper.

          • I get your point but at the end of the day I would prefer to see more choice of A-B-C options out of EDI and GLA even at the cost of some extra competition on individual A-B routes. I don’t think it’s selfish at all, I think it’s just common sense way to keep a good balance of options for passengers entering and leaving Scotland. It’s not that long ago since we had little choice other than A-LHR-C with BA or BMI but things are now improving substantially, especislly exEDI. I don’t think it’s in general interest to choke the life out of our A-B-C options by allowing too much competition by LCCs. I don’t have any preference for SAS, I have only flown them twice A-B-C in last seven years, but I would like to see them survive on the route because they can provide options for passengers that the LCCs cannot.

          • James – absolutely not. If you want to fly SAS then it makes sense to WANT them protected from competition, but in no way, shape or form does it justify legislation or airport rules to forcefully implement it.

            I don’t care how you spin it , forcefully removing someone else’s preferred flights to promote your own preferred flights is selfish. Period.

          • If Finnair want the A-B-C to Asia passengers then they need to compete with KLM/AF, Qatar,Emirates,Etihad,Lufthansa, Turkish and of course BA out of EDI. I don’t see this being any different from them having to compete on short haul A-B routes. They either can or they can’t.
            EDI airport duty is to its customers. Low prices, great facilities and competition = more passengers. More passengers mean more airlines want in.

      • SAS keep being trigger happy with their cancellation button on the EDI-CPH, so frankly they’d be no great loss. Almost solely use Easyjet and Norwegian to CPH and will consider FR. Flights regularly full – it’s a route that can take the capacity.

  4. Richard F says:

    Finnair should start a Haneda route, leaving around 2 am and arriving into Helsinki early am would allow great onward connections to the rest of europe. Oneworld is the only alliance missing an overnight flight to europe from Japan. From Haneda Frankfurt (ANA) and Paris (AF) are the most desirable flights and as such usually carry a premium.

    • All the airlines would probably prefer to fly to Haneda but it has only recently opened up to regional and lonhaul carriers and access remains difficult, but improving all the time.

    • Slightly dog-legged return journey, but Qatar have a 00:30 service to Doha which I think connects back to eg LHR OK. Not as efficient as the Finnair routes though.

  5. The new epassport at T5 have been running since mid Septmeber – I don’t know up who told you they only opened last week? They are quicker than the old ones as well.

    • Sussex bantam says:

      Yep – used them several times. Much better than the previous incarnation…

    • Sussex bantam says:

      Yep – used them several times. Much better than the previous incarnation…

      However they were taking some photos last week with a professional camera crew when I came through so I’m guessing this was the ‘official’ opening…

    • The ‘official’ launch was last week – they had an opening ceremony!

      • Used the new eGates yesterday – amazing service – from landing to collecting 2 suitcases to getting to the Underground in about 20 minutes. Are we going to miss the hour long queues soon??

        • I’ve used them twice so far and they’re great. In both cases have waited no more than 30 seconds for them to become free, whilst watching the many unhappy faces in the other queue. Not sure why they weren’t introduced sooner

      • We used in September – People queing to use them were like dummies and not going forward until called by someone marshalling them. Anything to speed up arrivals is welcome for me… a few times we’ve been caught in a backlog after a couple of A380’s have landed. It’s a shame that the ticket class doesn’t let you use fastrack if you’re a resident!

    • The_Real_A says:

      And makes a great change to the old ones. On the final time arriving via the old design, about 50% were not operational. Those that failed had the windows XP logo on the screen…

      Also to the right of the machine are two manned stations – when i arrived the officials were looking very bored, and doing nothing so i used them instead. Every minute helps.

  6. Is there any way to know the average Passport wait times at gatwick? (Long shot… But the US have a website!)

    Travelling through LGW at the following times:
    9pm Tues night
    9.30pm Mon night

    • Never really had problems. Always use Gatwick North these days but I went through there “en famille” a couple of weeks ago at 6pm and the EU queues were horrendous. My wife is a non-EU citizen though and so we went through that line instead which took us about 30mins I’d say.

      • Thanks – Think I will book the first 9pm one and then see the queues for the following week.
        I want to get into that Sofitel lounge asap for a few glasses of wine before its cleared away!

        • Gatwick is pretty awful IMHO when compared to Heathrow.. I’ve been through in as quick as 20 mins before, worst ever was just over an hour.

        • If you email Sofitel ahead they should give you a couple of vouchers for the bar if you are arriving in late

          • They give you those anyway, if you have Silver status or above…

          • It was deffo worth the email! – Just confirmed an upgrade to a Luxury room from the standard in my booking (2 levels up). and lounge should be open for a couple of hours after my arrival (hopefully if BA stick to their side of the deal!) – Accor Plat

  7. If we see BA purchase these ‘ex-eu’ airlines are we likely to see the cheap fares of late disappear?

    I understand APD is low or close to zero in those countries, but nothing would stop BA placing their own airline ‘tax’?

    • Replied to that effect on fares to Allans comment earlier, I share your concerns.However, ome thi g i AYs favour is shorter routes so less fuel burn allows them to offer lower fares. The question is more whether IAG would want to increasd the profit margins and reduce competitive edge over BA exLHR. However, IB have had some great fares on routes operated by BA so the omens don’t seem so bad.

  8. Tim Millea says:

    Are the new e-passport gates fully automated yet? I know the ones at manchester just send a video feed to an officer in a booth who manually compares the live image to the one on the passport file and decides whether it is the same person. If in doubt the person is rejected then sent to join the regular line. They were meant to be an aid to productivity but with around five gates, with usually two out of order, another memeber of staff required to tell people how to use them and their extreme slowness they must surely be counterproductive. The regular line is often shorter and I use that instead.

    Perhaps the new ones use face-recognition at last?

    • If the LHR ones fail, you go to the front of the queue. If you have a non chip passport, I would be tempted to pretend to try it out and then go to the desk.

      Can’t do this with kids as the staff will stop you approaching.

      • Only works if they don’t have someone checking for the chip logo on the entry to the queuing system for the automated booths. They had someone checking last night.

        These booths are the same design as at AMS although seemed to be much more efficient.

      • Haha! – Well the chip in my ‘new’ passport is apparently broken (its only 2 years old).

        I always try the gates and get sent to the staff to check manually.
        I’m pretty sure they have a scripted sentence to tell me the cost of a replacement each time.

  9. Drolma-la says:

    For FX transfer, one oft-ignored but extremely important consideration is which bank the FX company uses to transfer from and which bank you are transferring to. If these two banks are the same, you can often avoid a hefty at the receiving end of the transfer. As for the vagaries of exchange rates, there’s a comparison engine for that. But I’ve found that the overall cost of the transfer is best when the question of the banks at either end is taken into consideration.

  10. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    Wait, BA care about the ‘regions’?

    • IAG cares! Raft of new Vueling routes just announced.

      • LCC flights region to region are welcome but not all that we need, more region to hub routes on international carriers are much more needed in my view. However, to be fair to IAG we have seen increased connectivity from the regions to MAD so hopefully we can expect same to DUB and HEL.

        • Erico1875 says:

          If you are a cash buyer, choice from Scotland is excellent. You can get almost anywhere without going near London.
          With Avios, esp shorthaul, its a pain since they did away with the free connection

          • The free connection more of a loss for those wanting a free Lonon stopover. Where cheap direct flights were available, say SK to CPH for around £80, avios were a waste of time anyway unless you were avios rich and/or had a familh and wanted to save some cash.

      • Erico1875 says:

        “IAG cares! Raft of new Vueling routes just announced”
        Thanks

        EDI to Alicante and Milan.

        Can these be booked with Avios?

  11. James Alexander says:

    Where are these T5 gates?
    I’m sick of arriving T5 from USA connecting to UK and being forced into long lines where (like yesterday) there’s only 2 or 3 officers while gates are flying open. Paying 1st or Club gets non EU px thru fasttrack yet we Brits who pay 1st or Biz get no help to speed us en route to tight connections.

  12. I have to confess that having spent over half an hour trying to get through security at Gatwick just last week I would quite happily pay the £12.50 and leave a tip!

    It was not a nice experience at all.

    • Aeronaut says:

      Through security (outbound, i.e. flying out) or through passport control (inbound, i.e. after flying in)?

      I suspect the latter.

    • Yeah I was wondering what they would do if the £12.50 scheme doesn’t take off. Lower the amount of security staff to increase queue lengths and hold a big pointy arrow to their new service.

  13. As a follow on to James comments, can anyone advise on whether fast track immigration / security for business class passengers on an non EU passport at T5 exists? On one busy night, my OH tried to transfer through on Fast Track Immigration after BA crew gave them a pass. On presenting the pass at the immigration queue they were told Heathrow doesn’t accept them as BA had stopped paying for the service! (they should take the signs down if that’s the case). They then ended up in a 40 min queue for the non EU passports.

  14. On the topic of Azimo, does anyone know that a transfer paid for on a credit card is considered a purchase or a cash withdrawal?

  15. Has anybody tried to book these Premium lanes at Gatwick?
    At the payment page there is the following 3 options:

    Paypal, Credit Card or No Payment Option

    No payment option….. ????????????? Huh?????????? – Seems to go through with a booking reference? What do they want you to do pay when there?

  16. Sort of OT but still on the subject of immigration at UK airports, just curious if anybody else hates all those cordons they have to control queues and passenger flow at checkin, security, immigration, boarding etc? In UK airports they are everywhere and excessive, and at quiet times a hindrance rather than a help. I think they must have a negative effect of visitors first impressions because they are increasingly rare at airports outside the UK and all the airport functions largely continue in an orderly manner. On passing through the new DOH airport for the first time the most noticeabke thing to me, apart from the gruesone teddy, was the lack of obstacles, cordons, barriers etc and it was much more pleasant as a result.

    • Agreed, once when I arrived into DXB for a connecting flight the security was chaos. I watched one little group of people walk off down a corridor and looking above them saw a sign marked as ‘connections’, deciding to take a gamble I followed them and after a few minutes walk arrived at a fully staffed security area with no queues! At T5 connections I always seem to end up in the roped off area with the largest queue for immigration, always been tempted to dodge under the ropes to use the e gates on the assumption I missed a sign somewhere that gave me the option to use them!

      Has EDI sorted out how to work its new security screening area? I never want a repeat of the chaos there, queues were back up through the food area!

      • It can be chaotic but at lots of airports, even very busy ones, it usually works just fine without the barriers. I’m visually impaired so works to my advantage speeding me through airports. At EDI I get through a gate to the right and straight to front of a security screen. Downside is they pester me to get out of the lounge early to get to the plane on time for preboarding. Heathrow is a nightmare for me navigating all the barriers. If it’s not busy I just duck under them or unfasten them and take straight route to screening. Usually once i or somebody else starts it, lot’s of others then follow like sheep and staff never complain. It’s a different story if busy; then I usally just ask staff for assistance so that I don’t inconvenie ce other passengers.

      • I must say sometimes at T5 I’ve found it quicker to go out through the eGates landside and back through normal security than wait for connection immigration/security!

  17. Hey, just wondering, if my wife have a non-EEA passport, can we go to EEA queue together? I believe this line is much faster than the non-EEA queue.
    She has a visa for the UK and hopefully she will get a passport soon!

  18. Am I the only one who feels slightly uneasy about priority passport lines? It’s one thing for airlines and airports to offer priority to their own services but quite another to make money by offering priority to a government one. Furthermore it provides an incentive to all concerned to make the regular passport lines as slow as possible.

    • Your last statement is doubtful as ‘all concerned’ would include the border security staff (the key people, after all) who are employed by government. There would be no particularly extra incentive for these staff to go slow (though I hear they’re heavily unionised and no doubt would in any case be somewhat ponderous!)

      • Presumably border security are getting some sort of kickback from the priority fee otherwise why would they agree to such a scheme.

        • The individual staff obviously don’t though – so why exactly would they care? It’s always interesting how many people tend to assume low paid workers in menial jobs care so greatly about their employer’s welfare!

          And I don’t know if I’m remembering this correctly, but I seem to recall from years ago that these schemes tend to involve the airport paying the salaries/extra cost of providing the service. I’m not sure it’s therefore especially beneficial financially to the border service – though even if it was it would be peanuts in relation to their overall budget anyway.

  19. O/T bit – if you need to buy perfume for Xmas, Amex is giving a 15% statement credit when you buy online / over the phone @ feelunique.com https://network.americanexpress.com/connect/uk/en/doe_offer_detail.html?offer=GCOR_612421999

    This stacks with any other voucher you might use, there are plenty floating around, incl
    20% OFF when you spend £80 or more with code GIFTME20
    15% OFF when you spend £50 or more with code GIFTME15
    10% OFF when you spend £30 or more with code GIFTME10
    Those 3 end today but there are several more if you google it.

    You could conceivably get 45% off, which might get you a very good price, might not (they’re not very cheap on Versace Bright Crystal which is the only one I’m interested in).

    • Just noticed – it’s one of those sites where if you just go ‘cold’ ie leave the window open but go & do something else, a pop up invites you:

      Please enter your email to receive 15% off your first order.

      I’ll get one to pass on if anybody fails to find a decent discount elsewhere.

  20. Why exactly are children excluded from the eGates?