LONDON, UK -- London Heathrow's shiny new Terminal 5, a sleek, modern new terminal serving British Airways' international passengers, is getting a lot of press lately -- all bad. But after "field testing" the new facility myself, I'm happy to report that this terminal rocks.
First, the bad news. Terminal 5, which opened less than two weeks ago, has been plagued by glitches and delays, lost bags and cancelled flights.
What the press under-reports, however, is that this is what happens when giant terminals are built.
Denver International, Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok Airport and Madrid's Barajas Airport -- all large, modern and tech-happy -- experienced massive delays, lost bags, structural cracks or other problems when they opened.
The important thing is the quality of design and functionality once glitches are fixed, which they nearly always are.
Heathrow's Terminal 5 is spacious and sleek. Rather than a peripheral option, self-check in is a requirement for everyone, as far as I could tell. When I check in, there weren't any lines anywhere. Then you drop off your checked bags at stations called Fast Bag Drop. The whole process took me about five minutes.
Terminal 5 has several for-pay Wi-Fi options throughout the airport, lots of electronics-friendly stores (for example, there's a Nokia store in the departures area) and really nice pay-by-the-minute connected PCs. The rent-a-PCs are right there in the departures waiting area, not hidden away in some Wi-Fi ghetto. The screens are built into a vertical service, which looks cool, and you can just walk up and do self-serve with your credit card. You can also get a lot of flight, hotel and airport information free.
Importantly, Terminal 5 has amazing food (including plenty of healthy options), including a Marks & Spencer grocery store with ready-to-go meals you can carry on board, and also a lot of super good restaurants, juice bars, sandwich shops and others.
The only downside is the lack of free Wi-Fi, and a paucity of available electrical outlets. The airport is losing buckets of money so far, and if you're going to lose money on something, lose it on free Wi-Fi and outlets.
So ignore the Chicken Little reports about Terminal 5, and fly in or out of here as soon as you get the chance. This is going to be one of the best terminals in the world for business travelers once they stop losing people's luggage.