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London Heathrow Trials Pre-Booking Service to Cut Security Lines

The six-month trial is now running at Terminal 3 and is open to passengers on select airlines, with a view to extend this in the future if successful

by Samir Kadri

October 5, 2023

Photo: London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5A. Photo. Courtesy of BAA Airports Limited.

London Heathrow Airport (LHR) is trialing a new booking platform that allows passengers to reserve time spots for security-gate checks, with organizers hoping the move will shorten the queues at peak travel times.

‘Heathrow Timeslot’ launched on October 3 and is available exclusively at Terminal 3 for the next six months. Passengers of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, and Virgin Atlantic are the first cohort of passengers eligible, with more airlines scheduled to be added throughout the trial.

Heathrow’s offering is the first free-of-charge security booking service in the UK. While other airports across the region have rolled out similar fast-track services, they all cost roughly £5 ($6) per passenger.

Photo: Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5. Courtesy of BAA Airports Limited.

The trial aims to increase efficiency in day-to-day airport operations and enable workers at Heathrow Airport to plan resources more effectively. Giving passengers an assigned timeslot and entry point to a security search area should create a sense of order and provide ‘peace of mind’ for those traveling.

Whether the booking service is implemented permanently is contingent on the next six months, with Mark Powell, Operational Planning Director at Heathrow, stating: “We look forward to seeing the data come in to give us some learnings on how we can roll this out more widely across Heathrow.”

Heathrow Timeslot can be accessed through a designated online booking page, and passengers of eligible airlines can book their timeslot up to three days before their scheduled departure.

Security timeslots will be available up to 90 minutes before long-haul flights and 60 minutes before short-haul flights.

Passengers are not required to register for the service and only need to provide an email address and flight details. Upon booking your slot online, you will be sent a QR code to your email to be presented to staff outside the signposted Heathrow Timeslot area within the airport at your allotted time.

Photo: Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5. Courtesy of BAA Airports Limited.

However, timeslots are subject to availability; if none are available, passengers will have to go through security as normal.

Airport queues have tainted traveling experiences across the globe in recent years, with Heathrow Airport bearing its fair share of criticism for lengthy queue-related delays in the summer of 2022.

Airports have sought technological solutions since then to prevent repeat fiascos at peak travel times, with Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), Berlin Brandenburg (BER), Frankfurt (FRA), and Rome Fiumicino (FCO) all providing free timeslot services aimed at reducing queue times for passengers.

Companies at Heathrow Airport have also invested in their workforces, adding over 25,000 trained employees in the last two years. The airport claims that passengers consistently move through security checks in under five minutes and that satisfaction levels are on an upward trajectory, hinting at a brighter future for airport efficiency going forward.

Photo: London Heathrow Airport. Courtesy of BAA Airports Limited.

Mark Powell, Operational Planning Director at Heathrow, said in a statement: “Everyone is familiar with airport security, but at Heathrow, we’re constantly thinking of innovative ways to boost the safety and streamline the experience for our passengers.

“This new trial will give passengers that extra added bit of certainty and reassurance ahead of their journey, and we think it will be particularly popular for those with families or nervous travelers who may want a bit more confidence in their journeys.”