Did BA agree to pay £1m every year to build a door in T5? – and why they are paying for another one

The oft-repeated story of ‘the £1m per year door’ at Terminal 5 may or may not be an urban myth.

The door in question is the one on your right-hand side when you pass through South Security (the far end, by the First Class area) at Heathrow Terminal 5.  It allows First Class passenger to walk directly into The Concorde Room lounge.

Without this door, First Class passengers have to turn left, walk past the shops, go down the escalator, walk past another run of shops, go back up an escalator (so you end up a few feet from where you started) and enter the lounge.  This is what all other lounge users have to do.

Heathrow Airport loves its shops which First Class passengers would no longer be walking past them.  The story goes that BA pays the airport £1m per year in compensation for the lost retail revenue – although I should stress that the Heathrow Press Office denies this completely and there is no written proof of it.

Concorde Room door

Now, a new access route is to be added which will take you directly into Galleries First, the Gold Card lounge.  This will involve a new security channel being built behind the First Class check-in area which will lead into Galleries First roughly where the business centre is currently based.

The new channel will only be for the benefit of Gold Card holders and oneworld equivalents.  It is not clear if First Class passengers will also use it and then be funnelled into The Concorde Room by a new route.  (People who remember the days of Terminal 1 may remember ‘Zone R’ which was a little used private security area for premium passengers.)

At a private lunch last week for Gold Guest List cardholders, a senior BA staff member (there was one director level person per table) was telling guests how much the airport has agreed to pay Heathrow Airport per year in compensation to offset lost shopping revenue.  I know the number but there is no proof of it, and the BA staffer involved would not have wanted it repeated (and may have been guessing himself) I will not repeat it.   If true it represents a major investment in premium passengers and may – depending on how fast the security line moves – be a genuine reason to strive to keep hold of a BA Gold card.

There will be more British Airways news tomorrow, as a Head for Points reader was kind enough to send me all of the gossip from the exclusive Gold Guest List members lunch last week.

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  1. Hingeless says:

    Any idea when it will be open?

  2. Interesting. When connecting onto domestic flights it might make it worthwhile going landside if it’s a lot faster! On the downside I’ve always found the business centre end of the Flounge lovely and quiet, looks like this won’t last for long!

    • Cheshire Pete says:

      I go landslide anyway when connecting back into domestic! Not because of security delays but since Fast Track thru passport control was stopped its now faster to exit the airport using e passport queues than the flight connection queue, which typically has only 1 immigration officer on duty.

  3. Paul C says:

    I wonder if the proposal for this, discussion or sign-off of it last November is what triggered an unusual tweet from a senior exec, which I posted about in FlyerTalk?

    (Thread now closed as it was assumed at the time that the exec’s Twitter account had been hacked.)

    Whilst not precisely the same details (GCH/Emerald is not “all users”) perhaps it could go some way to explain what was happening behind the scenes?

  4. Sam wardill says:

    The fact that this is an issue makes me disgusted with BAA. What other company would deliberately add 10 minutes on to customers’ journeys unnecessarily so they have to walk by lots of shops then charge £1m + to avoid the unnecessary inconvenience?

  5. Andrew says:

    For a terminal built for BA, it shocks me how truly awful its design actual is. Even the check in desks are at the wrong end of the terminal from where you arrive.

    • Depends how you arrive!

      • Aspirational Flyer says:

        If you are arriving on London Underground (which many people do) the layout of T5A is actually very good: it is more or less a straight line to the first bank of check-in desks, or, if just travelling with hand baggage, Security South including the fast track lane.

  6. The Lady says:

    Has construction begun, and is there a timeline for completion?
    We shouldn’t begrudge the shops at Heathrow too much; they have created a high quality, broad range retail environment which helps amuse those without lounge access while – because of the “single till” policy – offsetting what would otherwise be even higher passenger fees for using the airport.

    • Sam wardill says:

      I don’t begrudge the shops at all for the reasons you describe. However I do begrudge being forced to walk 10 minutes extra to go past them every time I travel

  7. Phillip says:

    The removal of a Zone R style facility at T5 made T5 a huge downgrade for me when it first opened. BA struggles to compete with other major airlines on ground services, particularly for premium passengers at its main hub, and not providing such a facility from day one always baffled me!

    • Hingeless says:

      Virgin Australia have this facility at Sydney and Melbourne for domestic flights ( direct lounge access from curb side through private security), and the Etihad gold card gives you access which you can status match very easily

      • Has anyone had the Etihad gold card match offered recently.
        It stated they would email within two weeks.

        • I applied 26 Deb and heard nothing. I followed this up
          Today and got an auto-reply saying status match has now closed…. I have them emailed [email protected] which is their std contact to see if I can get any info

        • Waribai says:

          Yes, I applied about a week after Raffle’s initial post first for myself and then a couple of days later for my wife. She received the confirmation email about 3 weeks ago and I received it a week a go saying that you have been upgraded to Gold etc, etc. I think the exact wording was “earned” 🙂 Haven’t received the actual card though yet but apparently if you have a print out of the confirmation email it’s good enough for lounge access

        • I got a match last year and never got a card!

  8. Kenneth Tan says:

    Finally a decent reason to maintain Gold status!

  9. Rob Al says:

    Well let’s take a guess. 5k gold and first passengers per day, let’s say 1.75M per year. Average “impulse” spend £30 per year, so perhaps £50M?

  10. David Passmore says:

    Many may suggest that the silly money paid by BA for a short cut to their lounges would be better spent on imnproving the lounges themselves! Poor food, shabby facilities, indifferent service and overcrowding are just a few of the problems that BA should really be looking at to improve their lounges..not an overpriced short cut!

    • Way way too high. And even if using your numbers- you would multiply only by the margin on that £30 of sales (say £5).

      • Phillip says:

        I will disagree – not so much for the short cut but for actually providing a true fast track experience for their highest tier customers. I would turn that around and say Heathrow Airports Ltd shouldn’t be charging that amount in the first place, given how much passengers already pay for the “privilege” of using their facilities. For me, the biggest issue with lounges is the overcrowding, which has a knock on effect on the quality. BA is more likely to improve the lounge offering if it has to cater for less people as it would cost them less to do so than doing it for a bigger number. That aside, I still think BA lounges rate higher than other many main hub facilities offered, particularly in Europe and the US, and especially given the size of the airline itself.

  11. And yet the fact you have to go through the same awful ‘fast track’ security before hand makes the door pretty worthless versus the best airlines e.g. Thai business or first at BKK airport where there is private security and passport control.

    BA you’re spending money in the wrong place again…

    • Maybe the Concorde door will be largely redundant now but if this new development is a true “First fast track” then I’m pleased its finally going to happen as current situ is crap!
      No doubt it will be understaffed and slow as the current fast track which is neither fast nor pleasant. Equally I no longer use first check in as its too far – I bag drop in biz when I get off the hex and go thru south security

      • Hingeless says:

        I should imagine it will have to include F pax, imagine if you turned up and they refused to let you through on an F ticket!

  12. My understanding (from a BA employee who I knew and happened to bump into during the T5 testing) was that this new door was the plan all along, but that BAA asked too much and BA walked away/compromised with what we have had up until now.

    It strikes me as too much of a coincidence that this is opening now at the same time as a non-BA lounge is opening – I wonder if a new fee was negotiated as part of allowing BAA to put in the Aspire lounge…

  13. Howard says:

    Paul (sorry others to be off topic)

    I was rejected by email about 6 times. I wrote in stating that I was going to take this up with advertising standards. My basis was that I had complied with the offer on the website and that they were refusing me based on two reasons. The first the offer had closed and the second being the offer was never made in the first place as incredible as that seems.

    I eventually got someone to investigate and I had a screenshot from their website of the offer.

    Eventually they said sorry and gave me the card.

    So I applied for the MBNA card with the 25000 points offer. I got £20k credit. When the card came yesterday it only had the 5000 offer. I called today and was told the reason could be that my credit rating is not good enough and therefore the offer is reduced!! I said if my credit rating is not good hoe comes my limit is £20,000. No answer on that!!! I was then told to cancel my card and re apply. I said that’s bad advice as if I do that they may give me zero points!!!

    I got through to someone else and it’s being investigated. I will have an answer in 7 days.


    • Justin says:

      I had a similar experience with Etihad credit card in December – I raised an internal complaint and it was enough to resolve the problem, get all bonus miles credited and receive a small gesture of goodwill (twice).

  14. Waribai says:

    Back on topic…slightly, I think the worst aspect of Terminal 5 especially with young kids is having to use the crowded shuttle trains to the sattelite gates! Coming back alone from Japan in C or F with JAL, my wife is driven to immigration in T3 but with BA is left to battle her way on to the shuttle train while also trying to manage a toddler and luggage!

  15. Lady London says:

    About time too!

    The ridiculous walk round back to where you came from and past a tacky range of shops has always been so transparently arranged it’s made my blood boil. How dare Heathrow Airport patronise us like this. I might even have taken a wander in some of the shops on the way, if it hadn’t been for being so insultingly obviously forced to trek backwards past them like sheep as the only way of accessing the lounge.

    On principle I’ve always made sure that if I wanted to visit a branch of those shops I’d do it somewhere else instead. I’ve also stopped choosing a couple of airports I used to fly to as when passengers have suddenly found the only route to their gate was re-routed through the middle of a chaotic crowded duty free shop.

  16. Please note that BAA doesn’t exist anymore. Heathrow is now it’s own company – LHR Airports Limited.

  17. Oh! Matron! says:

    Whilst the channel doesn’t go directly to the lounge, I still find Virgin’s private channel much more effective and exclusive at T3. Check in, in the lift, show boarding pass, through stuff on conveyor, and done with security, normally two minutes from checking in. Whilst I have to walk past the shops to get the Virgin’s lounge, I honestly don’t mind, given the major hassle is with security normally

  18. Ann Marie Bettonagli says:

    That is probably why they could not afford to compensate my husband when they lost his suitcase when he was going down to Italy to attend his Mother’s funerale nor did they ever and have still not replied despite various letters over the last 10 years

  19. Miles Down Under says:

    Interesting that British Airways are investing in this way.

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