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Heathrow Express drops £5.50 one-way advance tickets

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Heathrow Express has had a reputation for being expensive since it launched. A few years ago, the service tried to rid itself of this image by launching £5.50 one-way advance tickets.

These were a good deal. Whilst you had to book well in advance, this wasn’t an issue for anyone who had already booked a flight. You did NOT need to commit to a specific train, with the flexibility to take any service on the day you booked.

Given that children travel free on Heathrow Express, it meant that a family of four could travel from Paddington to Heathrow for just £11. There’s certainly nothing expensive about that. If you had a suitable railcard, it could be even cheaper.

The £5.50 tickets appear to have been quietly withdrawn.

The website now shows that the cheapest Advanced Purchase Single ticket is £16.50. This doesn’t seem to be an error, as the website elsewhere says “Travel with us from just £16.50”.

I don’t know how popular the £5.50 tickets were. Perhaps the operator is gambing that selling a few at £16.50 will be more lucrative than selling a lot at £5.50.

Comments (66)

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  • Alan Vickers says:

    Phew, I shall consider myself fortunate to have bagged a senior railcard discount for HeX in January of next year on the £5.50 tickets, so total paid £7.50 return. All good things come to an end I suppose.

    • Pablo says:

      They paid me £11 to travel with them this summer thanks to a combination of big Q £10 bonus & Amex c@$hb@ck

  • Tankmc says:

    The sooner the express goes and gives Elizabeth line more paths to Heathrow the better!

    • Michael says:


      I find the selling of HeX tickets at those pop-up stalls at Heathrow to be immoral. They’re essentially robbing people and I’m disappointed (but not surprised) the operators have been allowed to get away with it since 1998.
      Anyone who doesn’t know any better, which includes most tourists visiting London (for the first time), think it’s the only way to get into Central London as the signage indicates no other routes, and people end up paying the £25 single (£37 return). If you know (or have done your research) you’ll know about the Piccadilly and Elizabeth lines and their respective prices (£5.60 and £13.30 to zone 1), but so many don’t and inadvertently pay for this over-priced service. And of course depending on where in London you’re going to, it’s often not the best option – if you’re a tourist going to Earl’s Court for example, you’d be much better on the Piccadilly line. A few people might be cheaper getting a cab.
      Personally I’ve always felt embarrassed that the first thing this country does to trouists when the land, is rip them off. I’d be delighted to see this service disappear or be re-priced to be even remotely reasonable.

      • ADS says:

        yes. now that the government is getting around to licensing the rip off pedicabs – maybe they will now turn their attention to the rip off HEX.

      • Andrew says:

        Sadly the concept of ripping off foreigners is far from limited to the UK. It’s several years since I last went but at least 75% of taxi trips from Lisbon airport involved the meter quietly being turned off mid-trip (if it was started at all) and then a vastly inflated price being quoted at the end. And in many parts of Africa and Asia there’s one price for locals and a completely different one for tourists.

        • Rob says:

          You can get Uber from Lisbon airport now. €7 IIRC or splurge for a luxury car for €15ish.

          So stupidly cheap you take them everywhere.

      • Track says:

        Elizabeth line at 13.30 / ore more like 14 quid + is just as a rip off.

      • PeteM says:

        Or tourists can spend 60s doing a tiny bit of research…

      • CheshirePete says:

        The Trainline also only shows HEX routings from Paddington, which I think is scandalous.

  • AJA says:

    It amuses me how people spend thousands on a business class seat but moan that they have to pay £16.50 instead of £5.50 per person for a train ticket.

    • The Original David says:

      I think this hobby is about maximising value. Spending £1.2k on an ex-EU ticket when the chump next to you has paid £4k ex-LHR, or tapping out at Hatton Cross to pay only £3.50 instead of £6-ish – exactly the same principle.

      • Ladyshopper says:

        How does the tapping out thing work?

        • Michael says:

          Travel from London to Hatton Cross and it’ll cost you £3.50 OFF PEAK. Then travel from Hatton Cross to any of the Heathrow Terminals is free. Travel from London to the terminals is £5.60 so it’s a £2.10 saving. You get off at Hatton Cross go upstairs at touch out. Then you touch in again and travel. Same works in the opposite direction from Heathrow into London. Obviously this is a pain with lots of luggage or if the next train is a long wait, but for some they’ll value the saving. When you compare £3.50 to £13.50 on the Elizabeth line it begins to look attractive, even if it takes a bit longer.
          Please note the £3.50 is the OFF PEAK rate to/from Hatton Cross, at Peak times (Monday to Friday from 0630 to 0930 and from 1600 to 1900) it costs £5.10 so the difference to just staying on the Piccadilly line the whole way is marginal.

          • alittlegreenman says:

            I am a self confessed cheapskate and there is no way in the world I would do this!
            What I do often do is T5 to Hatton Cross and a cab from there (I’m in outer west London, not on a tube line) – saves about 50% on the cab fare for me.

      • JDB says:

        There’s maximising value and spoiling the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar.

        As @AJA says, when you have been or are about to go on a business/first trip do you really want to be faffing about (often with luggage or children) tapping in or tapping out or indeed just being uncomfortable on the slow Piccadilly line for the price of a cup of coffee. I’m always amazed that many of those advising all sorts of ruses to save pennies also seem to be the ones drinking expensive coffee (with tricks to make it marginally cheaper) and paying endless cancellation charges. It just depends what you want to spend your money on. I have weaned myself off shop coffee which was more of a habit than any real need but I attribute sufficient value to my time and comfort to travel to/from the airport in a comfortable and efficient manner.

    • Track says:

      It is one of the most expensive rail journeys per mile.

      People are not completely blind, even if we talking small absolute amounts. Otherwise, I would be disappointed about our evolutionary facilities..

  • Pete Manning says:

    Looked at Heathrow Express yesterday for next March, if the £5.50 offer was still around it would have been £22.00 return for 2, instead of which it was 3 times that at £66.00.
    Needless to say I didn’t choose Heathrow Express!

  • 747-8 says:

    I hope staff are still able to purchase £5.50 tickets. I remember when I used to work there we would get 75% off staff discount so would purchase carnets of £5.50 tickets. After 6pm and weekends heathrow express was free to use for staff so we would often hang around after work waiting for the first free train, but would still need to pay it to get to work in the morning. Hope common sense prevails

    • Bernard says:

      Don’t think much common sense prevails unfortunately.
      HEX trains already seem to run very empty when the Liz is rammed full.
      Someone there seems to think raising cost to use an already expensive (and frequently unreliable) train will make it fuller.

  • Bernard says:

    Problem with Heathrow Express is it might be fast to Paddington but then leaves you miles from west end or city, or better connections to the tube.
    On total travel time the Liz bears it by a long way.
    As said by another, better this anachronistic rip-off at Heathrow Express ended and the Liz line given 4 more frequencies to Heathrow T5.
    Liz line, with Z1-6 cap is just faster and better value.

  • Track says:

    And so we will cancel Heathrow Express!

    • Bernard says:

      It’s become expensive, unreliable and very empty.
      Perhaps that is Heathrow’s game plan – gaming the regulator to allow it to cancel it due to poor usage (ignoring the point they have priced anyone rational off the service)?

      • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

        HAL can cancel the whole HEX anytime it likes. It’s a open access operator so not part of the main regulatory system.

        • Bernard says:

          I think you’ll find that while you’re correct, it also forms part of HAL’s regulated asset base, similar it’s more complex than that so they can keep the RAB portion without the CAAERG removing it.

  • PeteM says:

    It will be interesting to see what HAL does with HEx, as their current track access agreement runs to 2028. I suspect that with a Labour government and Labour London Mayor the support for extending it will not be huge, plus it is no longer the cash cow for HAL it used to be. It may be they decide to let TfL have the paths and ramp up the Elizabeth Line service to the airport, although I am not sure there is enough rolling stock for that!

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      There are enough trains to replace the 4 HEX services as a number of services starting in the east terminate at Paddington and then reverse and go back but there would need to be some timetable adjustments to facilitate it.

      Lizzie could likely get more than 4 extra trains an hour as HEX running fast blocks up train paths that wouldn’t happen with Lizzie being slower.

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