Catching the new Elizabeth Line to Heathrow
Just a few weeks ago, London opened parts of its new Elizabeth line, which runs from the East to the West of London and its suburbs. The trains also run to Heathrow, providing a viable and very attractive alternative to the outrageously priced Heathrow Express. Together with the Piccadilly tube line, there are now three options to get to Heathrow by public transport. The Heathrow Express is the fastest, and runs from Paddington to the airport in about fifteen minutes. The Elizabeth Line is much cheaper, but takes about thirty minutes to make the journey – if it goes according to plan. The tube is clearly the cheapest option but takes for ever!
In the end, so did my trip to Heathrow too. I depart from Paddington on the 15h47 train bound for Heathrow’s T4. The ticket costs GBP7.50. I’ll need to change trains at the T1-3 station for a train bound for T5. Only, when we reach Hayes & Harrington, where the line branches off to the airport, passengers are informed that the train will not be able make it to Heathrow. So instead, we should wait for the second train on the next platform, which will then run to T5.
So we all move to the next platform where soon enough the train pulls into the station. It runs nonstop to the station at T1-3. Only, when we get there, another announcement is made to inform passengers that there’s been a change of plan, and therefore, our train will now be running to T4 instead of T5. For the latter, passengers should wait on the same platform for the next train to arrive in ten minutes.
Eventually, the trip from Paddington to Heathrow’s T5 takes me over an hour.
I’ve checked in online, so there’s no need for me to stop at a counter and I can head straight for the fast track for security. It’s Friday evening, which would normally be a busy time to travel. But Heathrow is eerily quiet. There are a lot of aircraft movements outside, but it certainly doesn’t look as though they’re very full, with so few passengers in the terminal.
Security is painless. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through so quickly at Heathrow!
My flight will be departing from the C satellite of T5, which means I’m going to have to take the shuttle train or walk – which I’m not sure I would recommend. It’s not a very nice walk.
The lounge in T5C is still closed, so passengers are adivsed to use the lounge in T5B, which is even quieter than the main terminal.
British Airways T5B lounge
The British Airways lounge is not much better either. Where is everybody? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this place so quiet.
I don’t actually have all that much time to spare. By the time I sit down in the lounge with a glass of sparkling water, it’s already coming up to six in the evening.
Boarding for the flight starts at 18h05. However, given that I still need to get from T5B to T5C, the displays are all already showing the flight as Boarding. The process starts with group 1, which is all Business Class passengers. Which is all the same, because the A 350 taking me to Madrid is parked in such an awkward location that it’s impossible to get a clean shot of the aircraft.
As I pass the gate, the agent informs me I’ll need to wear a face mask for the duration of my stay onboard.
The cabin & seat
I’m a big fan of the A 350. It’s such an elegant looking bird. It’s also very quiet and comfortable inside. Flying a wide-body on a short intra-European sector is always nice, too.
The Business Class section is located between the L1 and L2 doors. The seats are in a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration. The single seats on the even numbered rows are the window (A) seats, and offer much more privacy than the single seats in the unevenly numbered rows, which are the aisle (C) seats.
The seat offers good storage space.
The inflight entertainment system is operated either from a hand-held device, or you can use the touch screen to operate it.
We taxi out with a delay of about 30 minutes, due to them having to offload the suitcases of passengers that never made it onto the flight. Our flight time is announced at two hours.
While we’re on the ground there are no welcome drinks or anything. The only interaction with the crew is when they distribute the menus.
After take-off, the service quickly begins. I go with the vegetarian dish, and I must say I’m quite surprised with the quantity and the quality, especially of the main dish.
I also admit though that I don’t touch the shrimp. With the meal, the crew make two rounds with the bread basket, which is offered together with olive oil.
The dessert is very good.
To finish the meal, the crew pass through the cockpit with small pieces of dark chocolate, which is incredibly rich.
The service on this flight is what I would describe as typically Spanish. The crew are business friendly. They are helpful and they do their job in a professional and efficient manner. The food service is well paced. Other than that though, there is zero interaction. No smiles, nothing.
Eventually we land in Madrid at 22h11, only slightly behind schedule. Our arrival brings us in right over the centre of Madrid. Once we land, we quickly taxi to our stand on the satellite terminal. From there I need to catch the train to the main terminal.
There is a health screening for passengers arriving from non-Schengen countries, and that includes Britain. Other than that, Madrid seems even quieter than London.
Getting into Madrid
To get into Madrid I first catch the line number 10 to Nuevos Ministerios and then the line 8 to Plaza de España, where my hotel is. If you’re travelling from the new terminal at Madrid, there is a supplement to pay which is automatically added to your ticket.