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

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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.

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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  1. 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.

    • Frenske says:

      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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. James67 says:

    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!

      • James67 says:

        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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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 @

    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.

  9. Why exactly are children excluded from the eGates?

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