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I finally try out Thistle Heathrow and the driverless pods to Terminal 5! (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of my review of the Thistle Heathrow hotel and the driverless pods you can use to get from the hotel directly to Terminal 5.

In Part 1, see here, I did a brief review of the Thistle Heathrow hotel.

In Part 2 I will talk you through how the pods work.

Paying your £5

You can pay your £5 per person for the use of the pods at reception at check-in or check-out.  You will be given a business card with the code hand-written on the back.

Turn around 180 degrees from reception and you see this sign:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

Straight out the door:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

Head off towards the tree at the top of the picture:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

And you reach the gate where you input the code:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

Once through the gate you can clearly see the station just off to the left:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

Touch the screen and your own private pod will soon appear:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

This is how they look inside:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

And off you go (the full route is in the video):

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

You enter the side of the Terminal 5 car park on Level 2:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

And your pod automatically parks itself in an empty spot:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

The lifts are ten seconds away.  Jump in, press Departures and you come out in the taxi drop-off area.  Turn around and you can walk into the terminal:

How to get from Thistle Heathrow to Terminal 5 using the pods

You enter at the far left (north) end of Terminal 5.  Even if you have a Gold card, you might – if in a hurry – prefer to use the Fast Track security lane which is directly in front of you and then pop into Galleries North instead of using the First Wing.

At 8am, it took me under 5 minutes to walk through the terminal, through Fast Track and clear security.  In my case, I took the escalator down outside Galleries North and went into the Plaza Premium lounge to check it out.

Can you use the pods for free just for fun?

Yes, as long as you start in Terminal 5.  Simply go to Level 2 of the car park, head to the pod station and select Station B on the monitor.  A pod will arrive and whisk you off to the car park by the Thistle.  You can then jump out and use the monitor to order yourself a pod back to Terminal 5.

There is nothing to pay unless you try to leave the car park and enter the Thistle Heathrow.

And I made a little video ….

If you need additional video instruction on how to get to the pods from Thistle Heathrow, do take a look at the video below.  Even by our usual standards I think Anika has excelled herself here with the editing 🙂  We have speeded it up by around 3x – they don’t really go that fast …..

You can subscribe to our YouTube channel via this page – this is the same link to visit if the video does not automatically appear below.

You can learn more about Thistle Heathrow and the pod scheme on the hotel website.

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I finally try out Thistle Heathrow and the driverless pods to Terminal 5! (Part 1)
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  1. Lesley Clare says:

    That’s amazing awesome and spooky all at the same time

    • JamesB says:

      What’s amazing Lesley? Have you not been on the DLR? The device you typed your comment on seems much more amazing to me 🙂

      • I think it’s great tbh. And looks slightly different to the dlr!

        • The pod doesn’t require the occasional conductor to open the doors like on the DLR…

      • A big difference to the DLR is you specify your destination and the pod arrives on demand to take you to your destination. Currently the pod system only has 3 stations, T5 and zones A and B in the car park, but in theory (they did have plans, not sure if it’ll ever happen though) they can extend the system to other destinations.

        • As the third runway will see the demolition of all the Bath Road hotels including the Thistle and car park I doubt much will happen.

  2. Robert Iles says:

    I was tempted by doing this for our next trip but the Hilton T5 and 8 days parking for £100 won the day

  3. I quite often get a taxi to Heathrow when travelling with my family and I always ask them to drop me at pod parking where we have a ride on the pods first into the airport for free!!

  4. Although it isn’t particularly clear from their website, the family room for 4 is actually two rooms behind a single door with a lobby area. There is a standard double room and also a twin room. For just over £100 we thought it was good value. I did wonder if we had been upgraded as we hadn’t expected two rooms but reception claimed that was standard. All of the comments in the article about the decor and rooms otherwise apply though.
    We did eat in the restaurant, whilst not terrible it wasn’t good either. The added bonus was the roof terrace which has a great view of the aircraft taking off and had our kids screaming with excitement – luckily it the airplanes were so noisy no-one cared ! Pods were fantastic and despite being told it was £5 per person per direction we were only charged £10 total return for 2 x adults + 2 x kids.

  5. Rob did not experience the parking which was pretty good. We were fortunate to get a space just outside the door in the top picture. This would have been good if we had come back by pod but in fact we returned to T3 (open jaw) and the Hoppa back made the pods seem excellent.

  6. I think £5 per person each way makes the pod more expensive per mile than flying First class! It really is a rip off but clearly there are people out there with more money than sense.
    The local buses stop right outside the Thistle and are free. There is a very good TFL app for all the details.

    I have used the POD Parking several times in the last few months and twice they have been affected by cold weather leaving dozens of people standing around the wind tunnels waiting for them to recharge at 7am!

    They are a novelty and kids of all ages love them!

  7. Sussex bantam says:

    The pods are fun – this is my default parking option at T5. Its more expensive than other options but it is quick and efficient and often I care more about getting in and out quickly than a few £

    Only thing I would add is that at busy times you often don’t get a pod to yourself and have to share. It’s no great hardship but not quite as nice an experience.

  8. I heard about the pods on HFP maybe 3-4 years ago, and the very next time I had a flight out of T5 I arrived 30 mins earlier just to ride one for fun, so Rob really has no excuse leaving it for so long (and paying for the privilege) 🙂

  9. Louise says:

    The pods are quite often used by Heathrow staff too. I have been dropped off there many a time to get the pod to T5 and then it’s quick to get to HEX or the underground. Similarly, I have used it to make my walk to work safer, as there are few pavements. For all its claims for green commuting, Heathrow don’t make it easy for people to walk to work!

  10. Finally rob the pods after my comments my 4 year old will be thrilled now he gets to see the ‘robot trains’. Every time we stay at the sofitel we take numerous trips on them to keep him happy! It’s the simple things….

    By the way after you mentioned last time heathrow airport ltd being unhelpful did you approach this with them or take the bull by the horns and let’s face it please most people on here they’re a great way to watch planes!

  11. charlie says:

    Rob, you are missing out, you can park at The Thistle for £10 a day making it a cheap option if you do a weekend trip. Can sometimes find rooms for sub £50 in advance AND the restaurant is actually very good for dinner. All round winner apart from the 80’s ambience as you point out.

  12. Matthew says:

    Does anyone know if you can access the pods if you stay over the road at the premier inn T5? I’ve stayed at that hotel and is much more modern than Thistle. It’s just literally the other side of the road.

    • It is, yes. I am sure you can’t, I am guessing the Thistle spent money to set this up (paying for the gate etc) but as HAL gets the £5 they only profit if it makes you stay there.

  13. How do they enforce the £5 per person? I can understand the multiple charge if the room is booked for 2 or more, but if two people booked separate rooms and one paid for pod access, what’s to stop them giving the other a lift?

  14. Russell says:

    I love the magic robot pods! My prefered route to Heathrow is to park in POD parking and get the pod over to the terminal.

    The £5 must be essentially a convenience fee, as there’s nothing to stop you walking around the road side and then coming in the same way the cars do. Would take another five minutes tops.

  15. My local council considered installing a pod system for transport around the town. I was on the “people’s panel” discussion forum. We went on a trip down to the test track in Cardiff, then visited T5 when the pods were first installed.

    We never got the pods here, but they would be infinitely more useful to get the 5 miles to the nearest station than the canal the council are currently contemplating.

  16. Lady London says:

    When I saw the film speed up on the walk along the path I thought “Benny Hill” and wanted that music as well!

    Epic iconic post Rob

  17. LOVE the pods…we always use them when flying out of T5 and I still get excited by them…always sing The Jetsons theme song as we wing ourselves to T5!

  18. I have just booked the Thistle so this has been an interesting read. We fly into Heathrow at 10pm and our next flight is 7am. We paid £55 for the room. I think that is a bargain. For the price it has fairly good reviews. And I am looking forward to trying the pods.

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