Has Heathrow scrapped Fast Track security for oneworld Sapphire inc Cathay Gold?

In August 2013, the rules for using the Fast Track security lanes at Heathrow were changed.  If you were flying on British Airways, American Airlines or Iberia, you were allowed to use Fast Track if you held a Sapphire-level (mid tier) status card from any oneworld alliance airline.

It is worth noting that this was a special benefit arranged by British Airways for itself and its key partners at Heathrow and was not general oneworld policy.

Marco Polo Gold

I have received two emails in the last couple of weeks from readers which makes me think that this policy has been changed. Both readers had been turned away from the Fast Track lane in Terminal 5 when they flashed their Cathay Pacific Gold card.

If you are a oneworld Emerald (ie top tier) cardholder then nothing has changed.  You will still get Fast Track security at Heathrow Terminal 1, 3 or 5 when flying with specific oneworld airlines.  This is outlined on the oneworld website here.  Terminal 4 is not listed for some reason which is unfortunate if you are flying with Qatar etc.  For some reason Terminal 5 only lists British Airways as a participating airline but I assume Iberia flyers would be OK as well.

The impact of this change is ONLY on oneworld Sapphire cardholders who must now join the general line.

I imagine that this is a cost cutting measure by British Airways as Heathrow makes an additional charge for every passenger who uses the Fast Track line who is not travelling in Business or First Class.

Oddly, although I cannot find the exact page now, it is possible to download the contract the airlines and American Express (for Centurion and Corporate Platinum cardholders) must sign from the Heathrow website!

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  1. Hingeless says:

    Or just go though the automatic barrier into fast track at T5 with a y ticket.

    • Hingeless says:

      * through

    • stealthmoose says:

      Yes, that’s correct – just scan your boarding pass on the automatic barrier. It has no idea about status. Works at T3 too!

    • Does this work with domestic flights, because I tried it once and it didn’t let me through

      • stealthmoose says:

        I can’t say. I was travelling on a Domestic with the OH last week. The barrier let me through (OWE) but it rejected the OH (no status). I suspect she scanned it incorrectly. She returned to the manned barrier and I confirmed that she was travelling with me. She passed through that barrier but was processed manually.

  2. Mostly flying C now and connecting in LHR so unaffected. However, my memory from being SE-based was that fast track at T3 was never that much faster than regular security anyway. This change may benefit those with highest status by speeding it up a little more. What is more of a concern to me it the steady erosion of EC benefits. Would hate to see lounge access for ow partner passengers connecting to BA domestic or shorthaul go. That might tip scales in favour of EDI-DOH connections for me.

    • “Mostly flying C now and connecting in LHR so unaffected.”

      James, are you allowed to use the Fast Track lanes on your way back, i.e. connecting to your domestic flight in LHR? While I have always wondered why there is a second security check on arrival in Britain before connecting to another flight, I have never been sure if I would be allowed to use fast track with my (no-EC-status) domestic boarding card.

      Having done many flights from T5, my personal experience is that there is no big difference between fast track and snail trail anyway.

      • Connections fast track seems to be mainly self-policing /seeing who can work out they need to walk right around underneath the escalator and back! They re screen all international arrivals as they’ve got no way of separating out those from countries who properly screen and those who don’t really bother! (not saying there’s necessarily that much difference but that’s the reason given)

      • Similar experience to Alan. Find whole thing a bit of a shambles, especially when it is not busy. There are those small signs on the dividers indicating premium, crew etc. I have went throigh premium lane before on basis i was connecting from BA or ow C but whether I was entitled to was not clear to me. Certainly I was never challenged. There is also a lane for disabled passengers which they keep closed or manned which takes you straight to head of queue. Staff have directed me there sometimes after seeing meget tangled in barriers which are a nightmare for visually impaired. If it is super busy or i am in danger of midsing my connevtion I just ask to use it. I think thry may br sympathetic to anyone who might otherwise miss connection. My own strategy when returning is just to move through lanes by shortest means possible to get to end of shottest dcreening queue. Only thing that failed for me was last inbound connection a cabin crew tried to take me through crew security on a very tight connection into GLA. They refused me screening there but sent me to head of line at normal screening.

  3. T5 security has been a basket case since the start if November. Queues have been up to 40 minutes at times with passengers stretching out in the main terminal areas. At times the North end is closed to allow it to deal with the transfer traffic who have also been forced to queue for up to hour! There have been lots of missed flights but also very long delays. Flyertalk has details and pictures.
    The huge increase in transfer traffic suggest BA reliant on EU traffic at present. Whatever, Heathorow remains an airport best avoided

    • Improvments are supposedly coming your way after sell off of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton…

    • Absolutely agree. Actual service standards are abysmal.

      If departing from Heathrow, one can arrive with an extra 40min-hour, but the same huge problem on connections where you have no choice, double-checking bags at random and security queue of 7-10 people in front could easily take the 30-40 minutes.

  4. I’m a sapphire and used it just this week with non issues. Used it about 2x a month for the past 6 months. I’ll keep you all updated on my next trip.

  5. I used Fast Track line at LHR T5 mid-October with a Cathay Gold card with no issues.

    It was no faster than the main security line mind you. We were through in 10 minutes (at 7.30 am on a Monday morning), so no complaints from me.

  6. It worked for me when I went through T5 in mid/late August, although I did have my Cathay Gold as my FF number on the ticket. Not sure if that makes a difference. The check-in staff even directed me to the fast track.

  7. It has been an inconsistent experience at Fast Track Terminal 5.

    Sometimes security agents are puzzled when “Oneworld” is mentioned. However, the drive to turn people away from Fast Track gates is noticeable. They will ask you to go away instead of asking for your card!!

    Not surprising to hear there is additional charge from Heathrow involved. “Fast Track” is not that fast (very slow, in fact). I noticed that Heathrow security charge is around £50 per an international passenger passing thru the airport.

  8. Like others have said, no issues. I used Fast Track within the last week on a UK domestic flight with CX Gold number on my BP. The emails you received could have been a case of some less than clued in staff making up ‘policy’ on the spot … wouldn’t be the first or the last time that’s happened …

  9. Sorry i totally dissagree . Fast track from heathrow is generally faster . Ok i have seen once or twice when the main security is quiet. But i have no problems once a week using this as a ba silver traveling in economy

  10. Cheshire Pete says:

    BA website seems very clear.


    Fast Track Security is available for:
    all customers travelling in First, Club World and Club Europe
    British Airways Executive Club Gold and Silver members plus one guest
    oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members plus one guest
    customers with a fully flexible UK Domestic ticket (Business UK)
    Fast Track Boarding is available for:
    all customers travelling in First, Club World and Club Europe
    customers with a fully flexible UK Domestic ticket (Business UK)
    British Airways Executive Club Gold and Silver members
    oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members
    Fast Track Arrivals is available for:
    customers travelling in First, Club World and Club Europe who hold a non-EU passport
    British Airways Executive Club Gold and Silver members who hold a non-EU passport, plus one guest
    oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members

    • guesswho2000 says:

      This echoes my experience, as an AA PLT I used FT at LHR T5 three weeks ago (when flying BA).

      This year I’ve also been allowed through FT while travelling on QF & AY. I’ll be flying from LHR on AA in a couple of weeks, so I guess I’ll see if anything has changed.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Also, I was unaware that I could use FT arrivals as a OWS – didn’t appear to be any mention of it at the airport, just mentions that you have to have a non-EU passport?

      • You must have a non-EU passport. Whether a shiny card helps a non-EU passport holder who was travelling in economy I don’t know.

        • If you have an invite (e.g. unused from a previous J/F trip), the shiny card doesn’t matter…

        • Although the terminology is really confusing. There’s fast track immigration for non-EU exiting in London, but then they’ve got some expedited security for connections, one is if to a non-UK flight – this just does a BP check then straight up to Fast Track North security. However if connecting to UK domestic you near to clear immigration at connections. They used to have a Fast Track lane here but BA stopped paying for it so there’s now just one queue for BP check and then immigration. However after that you need your photo taken for biometrics and after *that* you can then either go up the left hand escalator (non Fast Track) or walk round behind the escalators following the tensabarriers to the right hand (Fast Track) security. Of course it’s then anyone’s guess as to how long it’ll take to get through security thanks to LHR security being about the slowest anywhere in the world!

          So it’s simple really… 😛

        • To echo some of this, my partner has a non EU passport and on recent flight into LHR was given a fast track pass by BA crew (we were in Biz), however the immigration staff refused it the pass and advised that BA were no longer paying for the fast track service, so off to the back of the long long queue. Ended up taking 45 mins just to clear immigration, to then join the fast track security queue (which worked just fine).

          LHR security can be annoying, lots of staff can be on duty but they seem too busy chatting to each other. They need some training off the GLA or EDI staff who have always been very efficient and courteous.

  11. I was told there was no fast track for BA Silver at T5 (connecting to a domestic flight) in August, and that it was for Golds only.

  12. The answer is no. Just went through and security line was long. Fast track machines were not recognising Gold or Silver I was told. No problems as a Silver though through the manual lane

  13. Two experiences in past month.

    1. Tried to use Marco polo gold through manual lane, declined. Told that Marco Polo no longer accepted and rules had changed.After much arguing and pointing out oneworld status was allowed through

    2. Tried to use Marco Polo gold through manual lane, declined. Security person said only BA and Amex allowed now. Pulled out Amex Platinum and was waved through.

    Made me wonder if Amex have negotiated new Heathrow fast track deal in lieu of Marco Polo benefit?

    • Someone else also told me that Amex Plat was accepted now. However I can find no back up to support this, it is possibly confusion with the Corporate Platinum Amex which DOES give fast track security at Heathrow.

    • Thomas Olsson says:

      I had the exact same experience a week ago – they wouldnt access the Marco Polo card, and told me rules had changed and it was now much “harder” to get through, only Business, gold cards and AMEX Platinum – waved the platinum card (Personal AMEX Platinum) and was let through.

      I contacted AMEX to ask about this, they confirmed the Marco Polo should no longer be allowed for FastTrack (due to some BA changes) but will work for lounges. They could however not confirm the AMEX Platinum should be allowed, only Centurion is officially allowed, and if you have a Platinum Corporate, you can get vouchers.

      So all a bit confusing at the moment – the BA Site as quoted about is quite clear, but not what the people on the gates have in front of them 🙂

  14. Just came through T5 fast track 10 minutes ago. It clearly states on the signs that fast track is for Emerald Sapphire and above. (as well as all the BA-specific ways to get access)

    Never had a problem, but then I’ve always used the machines, with my boarding card carrying the Sapphire tier from CX on there

    • Mark – do you normally change back to BA after the flight or do you leave it on your CX card? Can anyone remind me how long you have to change back to the BA card number to get the miles/TP.

      Many thanks

      • Thomas – I used to do that but stopped on account of CX no longer renewing Marco Polo Gold for Amex Plat holders, without meeting a minimum miles/sectors on CX….and using the BA Premium Amex to earn my miles instead.

        A compromise, which for me is worth it as I don’t do any long-haul really, and so BA status beyond Bronze is not a realistic target for me by trying to collect TP etc.

        I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your query about changing the CX/BA refs post flight, in fact i’d be surprised if you can. I used to change it before I flew.

        • Mark – many thanks for the feedback, very helpful – same boat here, lots of flights but all Europe and I fly quite a bit with Miles and More carriers, so may reach bronze but unless I do a TP run, anything more will be harder.

          Many thanks

        • Mark, something in your post piqued my interest. I’d never seen anything about maintaining Marco Polo Gold by meeting a minimum miles/sector (unless of course it’s the normal achievement threshold), is there a lower threshold to simply maintain it? I never fly with them and have been switching at the airport to BAEC, but given I too will never actually achieve status with BA, would be fine to use Marco Polo if there was any chance I could maintain status there beyond the 1-year (although randomly extended by 4 months) that came with Amex Platinum…?

        • Cathay will write to you 6 moths before expiry with a special deal. To be honest I was not overexcited but may work for some.

  15. I’ve always used the machines – both at LHR and GLA, with no issues for me and for partner (who doesn’t have status) – which made me always think that anyone could chance it through the automatic barriers.

  16. OT: are you able to “guest” a colleague or significant other through fast track on same terms if OW sapphire and travelling on same connection? Works in EDI but never sure if just too much hassle to deny it 😉

  17. Lady London says:

    When departing, T5 staff nudge you to use the machines rather than manual entrance to the xray queues. I then just look to see how busy fast track is over on the left hand side, as compared to all the other non-fast track lines that have the same or smaller number of people waiting than fast track, and choose if I can be a$$ed to walk down to fast track or just take any line. I don’t travel at peak periods though. At peak periods access to fast track might be much better.

    When landing at T5 longhaul, many times since February I have been turned away from Fast Track immigration even showing my BA Gold card. The explanation given was that I had a UK passport so was not eligible for Fast Track.

    One thing that does constantly annoy me at T5 immigration is that when I land most of the desks seem to be serving non-EU and non-UK passport holders. There are always very few desks open for us and the queues can be horrendous taking ages. the many desks open for non-EU and non-UK seem to have far fewer people waiting for them and they do seem to move reasonably quickly while all the UK and EU passport holders wait in the much longer queues. The machine passport readers have helped that greatly but the bias does seem to be against UK and EU when it comes to queuing….. winge 🙂

  18. My Cathay gold card was happily accepted at terminal 5 on Tuesday on my heavily discounted Avios redemption ticket in BA economy!