Many of us can warm to the sentiments of writer Dennis Potter when he said: I did not fully understand the dread term terminal illness until I saw Heathrow for myself. Rather like going to the dentist or the headmasters office, even the briefest spell in the UKs busiest airport (and the worlds third-busiest international airport after Hartsfield- Jackson Atlanta and Chicago OHare), with over 64 million passengers a year, can be disheartening.
But the well-travelled know how to make the best of an unbearable situation.
Turning compliant toleration into an exhilarating shopping or epicurean experience, or ascertaining where to escape for a moments solitude are tips to make a visit to Heathrow a happy event. So heres the Country Life survivors guide to Heathrow, guaranteed to put the bon into bon voyage.
● The best lounge, according to travel writer Susan dArcy, is Virgins, with facials, massages, manicures, pedicures, wet shaves and haircuts, using Cowshed and Bumble and bumble products for Upper Class passengers. British Airways has teamed up with Elemis, to offer spa treatments (try the f lying feet hot-stone massage) in three lounges in the new Terminal 5.
● Susan dArcy also suggests checking out Tiffany & Co at Terminal 5 Tiffany doesnt sell duty free anywhere else in the world, she reveals.
● Wear slip-on shoes, to make going through security fasterand a lot more dignified.
● Buy the best hand luggage you can find (the intrepid can do so at the airport), festooned with smart Smythson luggage labels.
● Buy travel-sized products (Jo Malone has a good range, as does Boots) and carry them in a proper see-through cosmetics bag (so much classier than a Ziploc bag).
● Avoid lengthy immigration queues by registering for the Iris Recognition Immigration System.
● Arrive early and relax with a cappuccino before facing Customs and security.
● Arrive late (an hour before the f light is still comfortable) and security staff will whisk you through, so you dont miss your plane.
● Go on the Heathrow Airport website (www.heathrowairport.com) for the cheapest valet parkingit beats having to park somewhere in Hounslow and catch a bus back to the Terminal. Also, look out for short-term parking deals that cost about £20 more than long term but without the long walk.
● Local taxi companies offer good dealsit costs only £20 from Holland Park or £32 from Wandsworth. Or, take the Heathrow Expressits clean and efficient, although one might baulk at the ticket prices, which notch up to almost £1 a minute (£14.50 one way or £23.50
● Dont rely on Heathrows bookshops, unless youre partial to holiday bestsellers.
Robert Bailey, from Robert Bailey Property, gets John Sandoe Books, just off the Kings Road, to provide a box of books monthly, linked to his interests (they deliver to the country, too).
● Mr Bailey also heads for one of the great Heathrow refuges the caviar bar for a fine bottle of Chablis, and a plate of crevettes and smoked salmon.
● Check-in online the day before you fly, to avoid the principal queues.
● Buy a Priority Pass (about £260 a year) to get out of the main terminus and enjoy
a free cup of coffee and Wi-Fi access in the airline lounges, says James Price from
Knight Frank International.
● Bored by the familiar anxiety at reclaim baggage carousels (you will be if youve
experienced teething issues at T5)? Employ someone else to look after your luggage.
Companies such as www.carrymyluggage.com will collect your bags and deliver them direct to your destination.