Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Review: the Thistle Heathrow Terminal 5 hotel and the driverless pods to the terminal

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

This is my review of the Thistle Heathrow Terminal 5 hotel at London Heathrow Airport and the driverless pods which take you directly into Terminal 5.

I’ve ticked off a lot of the key goals in the frequent traveller field.  Etihad First Class Apartment?  Check.  Lufthansa First Class and the Frankfurt First Class Terminal?  Check.  The Qatar Airways First Class Lounge in Doha?  Check.  Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow T3?  Check.

One thing still escaped me though …. I’d never taken the driverless pods at Heathrow Terminal 5.  It gnawed away at me every time I took a taxi to the airport and drove past them.

On Tuesday, I got my chance.

Review thistle terminal 5 heathrow hotel

The biggest downside of staying at one of the hotels at Heathrow which is NOT directly connected to the terminals is the slow and painful process of getting to or from the airport.  The local Heathrow buses are free (this article explains which ones to take) but you need to get to the relevant bus stop and know where to get off.  This is tricky enough before you start to consider carrying your luggage.

The Hotel Hoppa bus service picks up directly from outside the terminals and drops you directly at the hotels.  However, the journey can be slow because each bus stops at a number of different hotels on its route.  It also costs a rip-off £5 per person each way.

If you stay at the Thistle Hotel at Heathrow, there is a third option.

The Thistle is situated next to the Heathrow car park from where the driverless pods take you to and from Terminal 5.

The Thistle has done a deal with Heathrow Airport to allow its customers to use the pods.  This being Heathrow, it is not a free service – you are charged £5 per person, each way, all of which is apparently paid to the airport.

My trip

I needed to stay at Heathrow on Tuesday night and decided to give the pods – and therefore the Thistle Heathrow hotel – a try.

It is well known that this is, to put it mildly, not the most modern hotel at Heathrow.  That was reflected in the £85 price, booked the day before.

Getting to Thistle Heathrow from the airport via the pods

I took a taxi to the hotel.  However, if you are coming from Terminal 5, you simply following the signs for Pod parking on Level 2 of the car park and select Station B.  When you arrive, 5 minutes later, there is a short walkway to your right which leads you to a gate.  You can buzz reception from here to have the gate opened for you, in return for having £5 added to your bill.

My room

This is not meant to be a full review of the Thistle Heathrow hotel.  I arrived at 10pm and left at 7am.  However, I will show you a few pictures.

I had heard bad things about this place.  Frankly, without the Pod access, there is no reason – at all – to stay here.

And yet …. it tries.  The staff were very friendly.  They have moved with the times and installed a ‘grab and go’ fridge in the lobby so you can get a half-decent snack:

The rest of the hotel is untouched from the 1980s.  I got a very weird feeling walking through it.  It was a throwback to when I first started staying in UK hotels when I was 19 or 20 on university work placements.  Anyone else remember when Thistle ran the Avon Gorge Hotel – soon to relaunch as a Hotel du Vin – overlooking Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol?

The room … well, it was OK.  Whilst the room was small, the bed was big, comfy and clean:

The bathroom had clearly been redone in the last five years or so and, whilst not huge, was perfectly fine for a hotel of this calibre:

The weird thing was the desk.  It was, very possibly, the original desk.  I have never, ever, had a hotel room with a desk so old.  It was at least 30 years old.  The photo below does not do justice to the chips, odd stains and general sense of junk that it gave off:

It is weird.  For £100 they could have replaced it with something decent.  A few thousand pounds has been spent on the bathroom but the desk is ancient.  Wi-fi was at least free, but slow as I found when trying to upload these images.

Here is a blast from the past for those of you aged 45 or above:

Do you see the MCT logo on the bedside control panel?  That stands for ‘Mount Charlotte Thistle’ which is what the group was called back for a while in the 1980s.  I hadn’t seen that logo for literally 25 years.

There isn’t much more to say.  The rooftop (although this is only a 2-story building, with no lift) restaurant apparently has a great viewing terrace over the runway.  The bar looked like your average 3-star hotel bar.  I didn’t use either – I ate at home and decided to have breakfast in the Plaza Premium T5 lounge.

In conclusion, you can clearly do better.  For the £85 I paid, it was fine.  For comparison, the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross was £130 and the single bed rooms at the Holiday Inn Arial were £120.  Arriving at 10pm and leaving at 7am, the Thistle Heathrow Terminal 5 did the job and being able to get the pod to Terminal 5 was a real time saver.

Getting back to the airport via the pods

In Part 2 of this review – click here – I will talk about how the pods work and about how easy it is to get there from the Thistle.  I even made a little video ….

You can read our full series of London airport hotel reviews here.

You can find out more about the Pod service on the Thistle Heathrow Terminal 5 website here.

Hotel offers update – April 2024:

Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Want to buy hotel points?

  • Hilton Honors is offering a 100% bonus when you buy points by 14th May 2024. Click here.

Comments (77)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • @alastairtravel says:

    Worth noting that the Pods go for maintenance sometimes – mostly weekends.

    There is zero information about this from Thistle – you have to search it out on the Heathrow website.

    Booked in there in October as had an early morning flight and cost of hotel with parking no more than parking alone. Found out on arrival pods out of action and had to get an Uber due to the early hour – was about £14 even in an Uber as the one way system goes a long way round (buses can shortcut). A prebooked taxi was about £25!

    • Rob says:

      £14 is a bargain. Cost me £20 in an Uber from the Crowne Plaza at 6am one day last August and that is nearer.

  • Hanna says:

    Parking can be huge problem at Thistle if you arrive at busy period or wrong time of the day. Also, even if you arrive when there’s a lot of parking spaces, make sure you park in the one you won’t be blocked. Some people think it’s ok to park outside of marked parking spaces and block others. School holiday time is is the worst.

    Rooms are cheap so you get what you pay for. It works for overnight stay and that’s it.

  • @mkcol says:

    You should see the state of the Hilton Birmingham Metropole that we stayed in last weekend prior to an 0630 ski flight. The staff are brilliant, the physical building abysmal – bad enough for me to take photos to send on to Hilton & complain.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.