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New lower fares launched on Heathrow Express – as new ‘old’ trains come into service

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Heathrow Express has launched a change to its pricing structure, aimed at attracting more leisure business.  This comes as the current train sets prepare to hit the scrap heap, to replaced with new ‘old’ rolling stock.

Heathrow Express has offered £5.50 fares at weekends and Bank Holidays for some time, as long as you booked well in advance.

£5.50 fares have now been rolled out for every day of the year in Express Class.

A new yield management system will price advanced purchase economy tickets in a series of bands:  £5.50, £7.50, £10.00, £12.50, £15.00 or £16.50.

A fixed number of one-way tickets, which will vary depending on how busy the service is expected to be, will be sold at the lowest price point.  When they are sold out, the price moves up a step.

Tickets are made available 24 weeks in advance of travel.  You do not need to book a specific train, just a particular day.

Children under 15 will continue to travel for free, which means a family of four could travel for just £11 one-way.

You will continue to earn Heathrow Rewards points on these tickets, at the rate of 1 per £1 spent, if you give your number during the booking process.  You CANNOT earn Avios – these are only available on ‘full fare’ tickets booked via heathrowexpress.com/avios.

This page of the HEx website explains how it works.

How is the pricing in reality?

Here are some examples to show you how the pricing drops away.  These are for travel on a Tuesday, priced up yesterday:

  • 29th October £22 (standard fare)
  • 5th November  £22 (standard fare)
  • 12th November  £15
  • 19th November  £15
  • 26th November  £22 (standard fare)
  • 10th December  £7.50
  • 7th January  £7.50
  • 21st January  £5.50
  • 4th February  £5.50
  • 18th February £5.50

The £5.50 fares are clearly there for midweek dates, albeit I had to look 10 weeks ahead to find one on a Tuesday.  If you’ve got your flights booked, of course, booking your Heathrow Express ticket so far ahead should not be an issue.

Heathrow Express £5.50 all day fares

And new / old trains are coming very soon ….

The existing Heathrow Express rolling stock is about to be sent to the scrap heap.  Before we go into this, let me remind you what has happened behind the scenes at HEx in the past year.

Heathrow Express is owned by Heathrow Airport Ltd, and is an ‘open access’ rail service which pays to use parts of the National Rail network.  The spur and tunnel from the Great Western main line was paid for by the airport.

From its launch in 1998, Heathrow Airport has operated the service as well as owning it.  This changed last year.

Under a new deal:

Great Western Railway took over the operation of Heathrow Express – this took effect in August 2018 and will continue until 2028

Heathrow Airport retains ownership of the service

The existing train fleet of Class 332 rolling stock is to be scrapped

A fleet of refurbished Class 387 Electrostar trains is to be introduced

The actual switch to Great Western operation was virtually invisible.  The final stage of the switch will be very visible however – the refurbished Electrostar trains are due to come into operation in December.

Here is a sneak peak:

New Heathrow Express livery

Picture by Geof Sheppard – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79767195

These trains were built in 2015 to 2017 and became surplus to requirements due to delayed electrification projects and other rolling stock purchases.  Great Western has been slowly refurbishing them over the Summer with a new livery.

No-one seems to have seen inside one yet, with the exterior work being completed before the interiors were done.  The work is believed to include:

adding First Class seats

adding wi-fi

adding more luggage space

introducing on-board entertainment

First Class will be 2-1 which is a downgrade on the current 1-1 configuration:

Heathrow Express first class

Whilst the existing rolling stock is in excellent condition internally, the trains need to go because their depot – at Old Oak Common – is required as part of the HS2 project.  The new fleet will be based at the Great Western depot in Reading.

Given the fares charged, we need to assume that Great Western is spending a substantial sum on the train refurbishments.  Heathrow Express trains are currently the ‘smartest’ in the UK – as they should be, given the price – and, even with £5.50 tickets now available every day, I doubt full fare passengers will be happy if the standard drops anywhere near that of a standard commuter train.

You can find out more about the new £5.50 advanced purchase tickets on their website here.

Comments (59)

  • the_real_a says:

    The issue for many travelers was that Heathrow Express could not be booked in combination with a rail fare arriving into London (at least the cheap fares). Unlikely anyone from outside of London would “risk” making an separate ticket booking on a fixed timed train with the unreliability of rail network. Hopefully now GW have control it will be possible to book a through ticket that incorporates the cheap fares… otherwise its the tube.

    • The Original David says:

      HEX doesn’t sell tickets for fixed time trains, only fixed days.

      • the_real_a says:

        Thanks for that. This was news for our whole office… we thought you needed to book specific trains – like the rest of the rail network.

  • John says:

    There appears to be a glitch on the Heathrow Express App. Just tried to book an advance ticket for December 22 and it confirmed a non-changeable ticket for December 21. I went through the process twice to check it wasn’t my error. Same result. Beware!

  • Sussex Bantam says:

    OT – I’m still waiting for my Shell conversion bonus. The initial transfer was 12 September with the bonus expected within a month.

    Anyone else having issues ? Anyone know who to chase ?

    • Simon says:

      I’m still due some bonus points from a transfer on 8th September.

      • Liz says:

        Me too – waiting on 19200 bonus avios for transaction on 12/9 and wanting to do another one but not keen to do any more till these ones arrive..

  • Magic Mike says:

    Will the touts selling HEX tickets in the arrivals hall be advising visitors that a return journey may be cheaper as two singles, with the return leg as an advance ticket?

    Thought not.

    The biggest scam in Britain, perpetrated on visitors before they’ve even picked up their bags…

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Gone are the days where you should be arriving at any airport without any knowledge of how to get from there to you hotel.

      Google is a powerful tool.

  • MoJack says:

    OT;
    If I were to cancel my BAPP will all points earned that haven’t been transferred yet be forfeited or automatically transferred?
    TIA

    • N says:

      Maybe.

      General consensus seems to be that you will lose the points. I have, however, had them moved over in the past automatically after card closure.

      • EwanG says:

        When I cancelled a couple of months back the agent informed me I would forfeit the points which were yet to transfer, and sure enough they did not come across. It was only 500 points or so, and better value closing sooner my card and getting a pro-rata refund!

      • Genghis says:

        I’ve had it both ways. Approach I took was to cancel when the amount saved in pro-rata refund between cancelling today and cancelling at next points transfer date was more valuable than the potential points foregone, If not, wait.

    • Charlieface says:

      T&Cs are clear (second last page):
      “any Avios that have not yet appeared on your American Express Avios balance will be forfeited. Any Avios already in your American Express Avios balance will still be transferred to your British Airways Avios balance”
      i.e. the transaction must have finalised, not pending.

      Obvs Amex IT can mess up though. I had them transfer ok once but wouldn’t take a risk on a large amount.

  • BJ says:

    OT: Time for many to decide whether they trust Boeing and the FAA: they’re hoping the 737MAX will be back in service soon.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50151573

  • NigelthePensioner says:

    HEx doesnt want to give discount for a 2 together railcard for 2 return tickets Tuesday / Thursday. Its for Jan 2020 and the tickets are pricing up at £7.50 pp eack way so £30 but no 33% discount being applied. Are HEx now considering themselves above such discounting or is it the recurring issue with their mobile app being useless for pretty much anything other than a “book now for now” experience?
    Ill do it from my mainframe when we get home from this gamblers paradise!

    • Jonathan says:

      The cheap advance tickets don’t get a railcard discount (which they’re entitled to do). Unless you can buy >90 days in advance it’s cheaper to just buy a standard return and use your railcard.

      • Charlieface says:

        But brfares.com shows them available with TT railcard discount so it must be possible, not sure what’s going on.
        Check PAD to Heathrow Rail advance tickets at the bottom of the page.
        Can you book them on another train company website? Maybe over the phone or at train station, they’re usually good at getting obscure tickets.

  • Paul Fenn says:

    For such a high priced service, why are they canceling so many trains due to “driver unavailability”?