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Driverless pods are back at Terminal 5 for the car park and the Thistle hotel

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In November 2021, Heathrow Airport suspended the driverless ‘pod’ transfer system from one of the car parks. This removed a key benefit of using the pod car park, although the airport did put on a replacement bus service which was reportedly frequent.

The good news is that the pods seem to be back.

Not everyone has got the message yet – even Heathrow’s website manages to contradict itself on the same page – but it is functioning.

Driverless pods are back at Terminal 5 for the car park and the Thistle hotel

You can benefit from the pods even if you don’t have a car

One of the lesser known secrets of Heathrow Airport is that guests of the Thistle Heathrow hotel can use the driverless pods to get to Terminal 5.

The hotel backs on to the pod parking car park.  The Thistle has added a door into the car park, and for a fee they will give you the PIN code!  Once you’re in the car park, you can hop into a pod and be in Terminal 5 within a couple of minutes.  It also works in reverse, making the Thistle an easy hotel to reach if landing at Terminal 5.

We reviewed Thistle Heathrow Terminal 5 here.  This is not a great hotel BUT using the driverless pods in the car park to take you directly to Terminal 5 is pretty cool and a big time saver.

We reviewed the driverless pods here, because we’re a bit sad.

Heathrow Airport Thistle Hotel pod parking

The current fee for using the pods is £6 per person.  The hotel claims that it passes the money on to Heathrow, so don’t blame them.

Full details of the Thistle Heathrow’s pod access can be found on the hotel website here.

If you need a hotel and parking, this trick can save you money

Here is the website to book the pod car park at Heathrow.

However, as you can see on its website here, the Thistle Heathrow hotel also offers ‘stay, park and fly’ packages. To quote the website:

“You can leave your car with us for 4, 8, 15 or 22 days at a discounted parking rate, when reserved with accommodation. Additional nights of parking are available from just £12.00 per car per night.”

It is likely that a ‘stay, park and fly’ package at the Thistle will be cheaper than booking the pod car park and the hotel separately. Because the Thistle lets you use the pods, parking at the hotel is virtually the same experience as using the Heathrow pod car park.

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Comments (47)

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

  • mutley says:

    Thank Pod for that! To avoid parking or drop fees, I get dropped off at the entrance to the pods and then ride them to T5, alternatively get dropped in the Thistle, and tailgate through the gate. I don’t recommend the Thistle, its like walking into a parallel universe circa 1991, then you wake up the next morning and realise it wasn’t just a bad dream. If you are a plane spotting type, I wish you good luck identifying aircraft through windows that look like they haven’t seen a window cleaner for several years.

  • Jeff77 says:

    Best get to the airport early as the airport and airlines can’t handle the increase in passengers even though they’re 20% below pre pandemic capacity!


  • Doommonger says:

    I remember being stuck in a pod for 20 minutes with a chap who had awful breath and a milie tant type character ( for those who remember her from early Viz) That apart I welcome the return of the Pods.


  • Greenpen says:

    You can sit on the terrace at the Thistle and watch the aeroplanes while enjoying dinner and a few pints. Yes, the rooms are basic but you don’t stay there to luxuriate!

  • Washborne says:

    Just wondering if it’s easy enough to get to T3 using the Pods and the Underground. Will be likely staying at the Thistle for the parking they have (next alternative with onsite parking is twice as much). I know it’s two buses or a hoppa to get to T3 from the Thistle but I assume that the pod and underground will be fine and probably quicker if I time things right to get to T3.

    • Rob says:

      Easy enough and if T3 is two buses then probably less faff – and less standing around in the cold.

    • MattB says:

      The reverse from T3 is just 1 bus to the Thistle (no 4 I think)

  • Londonsteve says:

    What’s the situation with using the pods to access T5 as an alternative to paying the £5 forecourt access fee? Is there anywhere semi-legal where one could be dropped off or collected within a short walk of the pods?

    • Rob says:

      Didn’t someone menton this the other day? That you can be dropped at the entrance to the car park?

      • Londonsteve says:

        I took a look on Google Maps and it appears that the only way in and out of the car park is via the vehicular entrance/exit, past the staff building. I would imagine it would raise some eyebrows to see a pedestrian walking in or out of the car park, the staff might even be wondering what you’re up to. If too many people try this they’ll paint double red lines down the edge of the access road and put up signs warning stopping is not allowed on pain of a fine of £X. I couldn’t find anywhere else to stop within a sensible walking distance of the car park. I guess feigning being a guest of the Sofitel is another possibility. Let’s the honest, a coffee in the lobby bar is probably less than £5 and once you’re a paying customer, it’s perfectly ok to request a taxi/friend/family to collect you from the main entrance. I will not pay LHR £5 for the privilege of using their forecourt, a ‘service’ that is free everywhere else in the world and should be ‘funded’ by their greedy PSC. It’s almost as bad as charging to visit the lavatory. Failing all that one can legitimately use the Long Term car park to collect and drop-off for free, which is appealing in so much as you end up costing the airport money and clog-up their transfer bus owing to their own greed.

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