As the British press breathlessly anticipate “chaos” at London’s Heathrow airport for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games, the U.S. State Department has released some travel tips that may ease the way. First, the chaos:
Potential ‘Chaos’ at London Airports
London airports will be crowded – before, during and just after the Olympics (July 27-Aug. 12) and the Paralympics (Aug. 29-Sept. 9). There have been numerous reports about international travelers waiting in lines for hours at Heathrow, and it’s not clear if the government’s fix – adding so-called rookie workers to help staff airport immigration queues – will solve the overcrowding problem or add to it. As The Daily Mail sniffed (with typical British understatement) the newly-drafted Heathrow workers are “amateurs” who “lack confidence.” One thing passengers can do proactively is to arrive at the airport early.
When to Arrive at the Airport
Heathrow advises U.S. travelers to follow their airlines’ advice on airport arrival times. These vary from carrier to carrier but here are two examples:
- American Airlines: All international travelers are advised to arrive at the airport “at least two hours” before departure.
- United Airlines: Airport arrival depends on the departure city – for example, passengers flying out of Newark should arrive from two-and-a-half to three hours ahead of time, while those departing from London should arrive three hours before take-off.
Travelers who typically arrive at airports at the last minute are being told not to try it this summer, not if they’re heading to or from London – it would simply be too easy to miss a flight and have trouble finding an empty seat on the next one. Or even the one after that.
Tips and Helpful Resources
The U.S. Embassy has a London Olympics blog that includes a lot of useful information including a video of the most frequently asked questions by travelers from the States. A sample:
Q: Do I need a visa?
A: For most, the answer is ‘no’.
Q: What if I lose my passport?
A: Report it to the police, then visit the US. Embassy website.
Q: What if I’m stopped at the airport and am told I can’t enter the UK?
A: The embassy cannot intervene in such situations.
Find Cheap Flights to London on the Deals Blog
Is it Too Late to Find Deals to London?
One question FareCompare hears frequently is whether it’s too late to find deals to London. As of this writing, there are still some relatively cheap flights available, but they will go fast. Travelers may wish to fly to a less expensive European city, then head to London on one of the Continent’s many low-cost carriers (but watch out for those carriers’ high-cost fees).