Heathrow Is Now Selling Fast Track Security Passes – But Is It Worth It?

Filed Under: Security/TSA, Travel

I write about Heathrow a lot. It’s not because I love the airport — I don’t (although I don’t mind Terminal 2), it’s because I travel through it all the time.

I have oneworld status that allows me to use the fast track security lane in Terminal 5, or when I am flying a oneworld airline out of Terminal 3. For other terminals I need to use the regular security lanes. I’ve written before about massive delays in inbound immigration queues, and why I think paying for Registered Traveller makes sense.

I’ve flown out of Heathrow at all times of the day, but I predominantly fly out between 6pm and 8pm on Fridays, which is a pretty busy time at any of the four terminals. I usually pass through security between 4:30pm and 7pm to make my flight, and where I have fast track access (i.e. in Terminal 5) I’ve never waited more than one minute at security.

But every time I’ve been through the normal security lines on a Friday evening, I’ve never waited more than five minutes.

While thousands of passengers flood through each terminal every hour at these times, there are loads of security lanes and while thorough, security is actually pretty efficient.

Fast Track Access

Fast Track security access is traditionally reserved for those passengers travelling in premium classes, and those passengers travelling in economy that hold status with an eligible airline. Some airlines will print this on your boarding pass, others may give you a fast track pass to use.

Heathrow Airport is now selling fast track security access to anyone who may not have it, for a cost of £12.50 ($16) with the following conditions:

  • It is available at all four terminals
  • It must be pre-booked online at least 24 hours before departure (so you can’t book it in a cab on the way to the airport if you are running late for your flight)
  • You must select your flight time and you are then given a ‘window’ two hours before your flight in which you can use it (Heathrow is assuming passengers using this won’t arrive at the airport hugely early given they won’t have airline lounge access)
  • Heathrow does not guarantee any minimum or maximum wait times by using fast track security

Is it worth it?

Well this depends entirely on:

  • How much time it’s likely to save and
  • How much you value that saved time

I don’t doubt there are times when outbound security at Heathrow is horrendous. I know what Terminal 3 has a huge bank of departures to the USA each day departing in the period of 11am – 2pm, so Terminal 3 security is likely to be very busy from 9am – 12noon.

However, in the 15+ times I’ve flown from Heathrow, I’ve never waited more than five minutes at security. I may have been lucky but Friday afternoon is a fairly busy time.

So for me, paying £12.50 ($16) to save five minutes (assuming there is absolutely no queue at Fast Track security) is not worth it. I would only look to pay this if I was facing wait times of 30 minutes each time. I’ve certainly waited that long at security at places like Shanghai and Vienna, but never at Heathrow.

Gatwick only charges £5 for fast track security, which is far better value because Gatwick is a leisure airport that receives plenty of once-a-year travellers who will stop to pack their liquids in a plastic bag (do people seriously not think of this when they pack their luggage?). So security can be much slower than at Heathrow.

Bottom line

This will no doubt be of use to some people and if you are interested you can purchase your access here.

I keep thinking ‘it would be great to maximise lounge time,’ but then I remember if I have lounge access I probably have Fast Track security access anyway, and some Heathrow lounges are not worth arriving early for anyway.

I’ve heard your horror stories about inbound immigration at Heathrow, but I’m very keen to hear if anyone in a normal outbound security line has every waited more than 15 minutes, and which terminal and time of day or week this is.

Because at this price, I’m certainly not a buyer.

What is your slowest Heathrow security experience?

Comments
  1. 20 minutes tops, at 5:30pm on a Friday night before a Bank Holiday weekend. I’ve achieved Silver with BA since, so I get Fast Track when I fly BA from there anyway now.

  2. Last year I had a short connection in Heathrow and had to change from T5 to T3. It was originally a longer connection but the flight times were changed. I looked into fast track security but it wasn’t available for purchase then. Thankfully it wasn’t busy so we (just) made the flight on time.

    I’ll remember to leave lots of time when connecting in Heathrow again, the flights there are always delayed due to all the holding patterns for landing!

  3. You are right, unless they plan to make it slower to make more money, this is a total waste of cash. I’ve never taken more than 10 minutes to get through security at T3.

  4. I go through the regular security Lanes at Heathrow even when flying premium, T5 business/first security is horrendous.

    They all have this attitude of ‘I’ll show you who’s boss’. They’re much nicer, faster, and more efficient in the standard economy security Lanes.

  5. Now, what about Fast Track inbound to LHR? I would pay that EVERY…SINGLE…TIME to hit the Fast Track queues through immigration after a redeye.

  6. So .. they cannot get their long lines handled and now they want to charge money for it — unreal!

  7. MAN sells FastTrack already. If you are a business class passenger this is bad news since they will fill up the FastTrack line with people paying to have access.

  8. You guys are all germ machines. Remember that next time you worry about hygiene. The road warriors especially probably are toilet lickers to a larger extent than they realize.

    ttps://www.cnn.com/travel/article/airport-security-trays-germs/index.html

    Now. any chance of disinfectant wipes being provided by the government after the security? Push the airports to do it. Could the bloggers undertake some public service like this for every 10 times they push their credit cards?

  9. More than likely you are flying Y to save money, why would you want to spend on this?
    Wouldn’t it be better to save that money for the next flight in J, which would include fast track anyway.

  10. I use T2 frequently, and I can’t say I’ve ever had a long wait. Not worth it.

    But as someone else said, it’s totally worth paying for it at Stansted.

  11. @ Bennett Cunningham

    Do you have comprehension difficulties? The whole point is that LHR security is actually not bad – so fast track isn’t worth the cash.

    @ Anonn

    “T5 business/first security is horrendous.”

    It really, really isn’t (I write this as an OWE whose main hub is LHR). BA’s First Wing is actually great – I have never queued there since it opened.

    @ Catriona

    The trick is never, ever to transfer at LHR. It’s an insane thing to do – even within the same terminal. Fly through somewhere else. Anywhere else. Except maybe CDG.

  12. +1 @ Santastico

    I fly EY out of MAN T1 regularly and have access to the “Fast Track” due to status. However it is anything but fast… it is usually full of passengers with strollers/pushchairs/wheelchairs and those needing assistance – the Special Assistance lane merges with the Fast Track lane (same happens in T2 and T3 too) – no sure who thought that was a great idea!!. They really need separate lanes for Fast Track and Special Assistance.

  13. Gatwick North, which I go through couple of times a month, is quite efficient. Longest I have experienced is around 15 mins. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to a Monday morning or the first day of school holidays.

  14. As a non-rev who frequently travels out of T3, I would pay for this simply because, depending upon the airline, non-revs are either cleared at the gate, or cleared at the counter. When cleared at the counter you normally have less than an hour to get to the gate. Depending upon the time of day, at T3 that can be a problem. If I can save some time and not have to literally run to the gate, then it’s worth it to me.

  15. This is useless. At least LHR is not as bad as other places. And unlike TSA PreCheck, you don’t have too many people get them free with credit cards. People bringing liquid, taking laptop out, and taking off shoes should be banned from PreCheck FOR LIFE.

    Fast Track immigration at LHR?? Now we are talking.

  16. Whenever I’m transferring through Heathrow from US, I have to go through the ghastly carrying on screening. Even inhailers are viewed as liquid… If you ended up having your carry on searched, good luck with that. You will easily waste 30-60 minutes or more waiting for the screeners going through everyone’s carry on luggage before he/she searches yours. I would pay extra to be the first person to get my luggage searched if it happens to need extra screening for reasons I don’t know…and I’m flying F.

    Immigration line can be hellish even if you are at Fast Track Lane. Last time I was in one two months ago, they had like two officiers and we ended up waiting for an hour. The economy line, while looked insanely long, ended up moving faster because they had a lot more immigration officers…

  17. @Jason: BTW I cannot think of a worst airport to go through security than MAN. I only use T3 and I never have a day that I was selected for extra screening. Seriously, they are a huge pain. I had times they were concerned about my iPhone cables (apparently having more than one cable triggers them to perform extra security) , my laptop, a box of black tea, etc… I cannot find a way to not trigger extra screening at that airport and it takes easily an extra 30 minutes if you are selected. I avoid MAN as much as I can.

  18. @James
    Totally unrelated, but did you today read that Primera Air is also launching a Frankfurt/Main base from 16th June 2019 with flights to JFK, Boston, Montreal and Toronto with B737 Max 9?

    I’d have expected Düsseldorf, Cologne or Hamburg as their next base.

  19. Anyone else wondering what @Elijah does with all those miles from ONLY flying paid premium classes. Maybe he’s too good to sign up for FF programs. Or spends the miles for coach tickets for his SO. Just curious.

  20. does anyone actually separate their liquids in a clear plastic bag? I NEVER do that and have never had an issue.

  21. The Virgin Upper Class dedicated channel @ T3 is decent enough, but I have found general Fast Track slower than regular often enough that it’s simply not worth paying any extra.

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