Alice Dryden (huskyteer) wrote,
Alice Dryden

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Gets You There On Time

Having allowed for, and needed, plenty of getting-lost time on Saturday morning, I arrived at a hotel on the outskirts of Heathrow in time for registration - making sure to follow the signs for 'Terminal 5 Trials' and not 'International Whaling Commission'. I was given a pass and a passenger profile, which lent the affair a pleasing James Bond thrill: Now pay attention, 007, you will be travelling to Glasgow, flight 9929, on a US passport. Be sure to use an automated check-in kiosk and carry a single item of hand luggage. Oh, and one more thing - your name is Mrs Sarah Alexander.

We had coffee and pastries and watched a presentation about the glory of thirteen-years-in-the-planning Terminal 5 and how we, too, were making history by helping to test it. Then we proceeded by bus to the terminal, after having our bags enthusiastically bounced by a brace of adorable sniffer spaniels.

It was amazing how suddenly the empty building turned into an active terminal as we started exhibiting crowd behaviour, spreading out, queueing and clustering and wandering off at random. Some of us were assigned luggage and had to manouevre it around on trolleys. Others were given pull-along cases labelled 'THIS IS A PUSHCHAIR'. There were plenty of real pushchairs, too, plus older kids with their parents and several scout troops.

I had made a friend in the queue for the bus, and since we turned out to be on the same flight we stuck together. So the time passed pleasantly and my book and iPod remained in my bag.

Because I was travelling to a domestic destination, I had my fingerprints taken and my face photographed. Mixing up domestic and international passengers is Terminal 5's Big Thing, meaning both groups get more space and facilities.

Flight 9929 was called and we queued up to board. Instead of getting on the plane, however, we handed over our completed questionnaires and received new ones. I made a lightning change to elude any enemy agents on my tail and became Marion Clarke, EU citizen, en route from Inverness to Munich. This involved hopping on the transit train to the B Gates.

One last identity switch, to K. Faint arriving from Berlin, and we were processed through passport control, past the baggage carousels, and out of the building, grabbing a goodie bag on the way (contents: Terminal 5-branded pen, luggage tag, passport holder and universal adapter).

For a terminal that took so long to plan and build, I wasn't all that impressed. It wasn't always clear where I should be going next, departure boards were hard to see, and although the outside is beautiful I found the interior rather dull and soulless. Perhaps I would have felt differently if there had been arriving and departing planes to view through the enormous windows, as there will be when it opens in a couple of weeks.

But I saw it first!
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