Connecting flight at heathrow... - Rick Steves Travel Forum (2023)

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Posted bypsea(B’ham, WA)on

I am working on booking flights to Munich next spring. Looks like it will be British Airlines, changing planes at heathrow. Luggage will be checked through to Munich. How much time should i allow between flights. I have a choice of 2.5 or 5 hours.

Posted byJazz+Travels


7582 posts

I'd take the 2.5 hours. If you miss the connection due to BA's fault (e.g. arriving late) then BA will just put you on the next one (if there is space) to Munich (probably the one with you are considering with the 5 hour layover.)

Posted byAllan

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

3565 posts

I don't have much experience with Heathrow but on my one and only connection, I had 2 hours 40 minutes between flights and barely made it.

Posted byAlan


2662 posts

Having run through Heathrow more times than I’d care to remember I allow no less than 3 hours to connect. I would never count on the airline getting you on a later flight especially if there are 2 or more of you. Take the 5 hour connection.

Posted byPat

San Diego, California

3564 posts

Does your home airport have a good on-time departure record?

In Heathrow, are both flights in Terminal 5? It makes a difference if you're switching Terminals in such a large airport.

Also- no one knows what covid precautions will be instituted, and how time-consuming that could be.

Safe travels!

Posted byLarry


2609 posts

We did this a couple years ago. Since both flights are BA, they will both be in T5 (unless something has changed). Your connection will be airside, you don't enter the UK so no passport control (although with the new scanners that is really quick), you will simply deplane at T5's outer building (C), take the underground connector to the 1st building (A), and follow the arrows for ongoing flight not in the UK, all that will be is another security check, LHR gives 1 hour as connection time for this and you won't need it unless you flight over is late, in which case they will take care of you. But get to your connection directly, there is a cut-off where you have to be "ready to fly", after which you can take your time at the facility. It might be that after going through "ongoing" in a that you will find that your flight leaves from B, all that means is another 45 second ride back. 2 1/2 hours is plenty, I would be fine with that even if it required the switch from T3 (non BA, e.g. AA) to T5. If by some chance you were bussed from the tarmac instead of gated, the bus will be taking you to T5A

Posted byCyn

Colorado Mountains, USA

6738 posts

Normally, I’d say 2.5 hours was plenty of time, although you might not have time for a leisurely lunch before your Munich flight. But with Covid-19 testing and monitoring procedures, I’m not certain how long all that requires. Before the pandemic, 2.5 hours would be adequate, but now, that might not be enough.

Two other things, do you need to transfer to a different terminal for your connecting flight, compared to where your first flight arrives? And Heathrow generally waits until about 15 minutes before boarding starts to pro classes m exactly what gate that will be. So you need to frequently check the TV monitors in the Departures Hall to learn what your gate will be, then hustle to it. That’s the procedure, regardless of if you have 2 hours to connect, or 8.

Posted byBadger


5108 posts

Just make sure it is a change at Heathrow, British Airways sometimes sells connection where you are supposed to travel between different London airports on your own. But I guess most Munich flights use Heathrow.

Also, you will need to go through a security check. I don't know how the lines to those are.

Posted byjaimeelsabio

Mid-Atlantic area

5526 posts

For Heathrow we like to have at least 3 hours. We had a couple instances a few years back where we almost missed our connecting flight due to late departure from the states, immigration, or a delay getting off the plane (45 minutes) waiting for the bus to take us to the terminal.

Posted byCarol now retired

Lynnwood, Washington

7416 posts

I am going to mention the gate system which I found somewhat confusing the first time I went through Heathrow. They do not announce the gates with a great deal of lead time, at least not the same amount of time that I am used to here in the US. You will watch the monitors and it will give information such as "gate will be announced at 2pm" As soon as it starts giving information, move in that direction. For example, if it states a terminal wing, but not the specific gate, start moving that direction. Don't wait for the gate to appear. You can find that out once you are at the correct wing.

Here is a lesson that I learned the hard way: Make sure that you have emptied any liquids out prior to making the transfer. I had refilled my water bottle after going through security at my home airport and 9 hours later it wasn't even on my radar. We were short on time, but my liquids made my bag be diverted into the inspection line which is quite time consuming. To have an efficient transfer you have to make it through the security line without being diverted. Perhaps you have pre-check in the USA so you really don't worry about your toiletries being in a bag and easy to access. You will need to have them in a bag and handy for UK security.

Posted byFrank II


13604 posts

The Heathrow flight connects link above is good.

Check your flights. As long as they both arrive and depart from Heathrow you should be fine with the 2.5 hours. All of BA flights are now out of Terminal 5. (By next spring they could move some flights back to Terminal 3 but we don't know.)

Stay airside. Follow the signs for "Flight Connections." DO NOT FOLLOW THE CROWDS TO PASSPORT CONTROL.

If your arriving flight is late, the airline will know. If they deem it too late to make your original connection, they may have already put you on a later flight.

Posted byNicole P

Truro, NS, Canada

3938 posts

I've followed the flight connections a few times and it's never taken more than about 45 min - and that's 45min to being on the other side of security. That's when we have carry on, so didn't have to collect bags. And it has always been morning, so it's not as busy as if it was the afternoon.

If you opt for the 5hr, one thing you could do that we had luck with on our trip in 2019 - we flew Air Canada to Heathrow and were catching a BA flight to Prague. AC changed our flight leaving time (after I booked the BA flight) so we were going to arrive a few hours ahead, meaning we'd have a 5 hr layover instead of 3hrs. We arrived at LHR at - like - 6 or 7am. I went to the BA help desk and they switched us to the earlier flight to Prague at no extra charge - and I had looked into changing the flight beforehand and it would've cost a couple hundred bucks.

Not saying that it would work, but if you opt for the 5hrs and have plenty of time, it wouldn't hurt to ask.

Posted byWray

Gloucester, Massachusetts

3065 posts

We always fly BA and make same airline connections for Europe there as well. All our connections and arrivals have been in Terminal 5, and I check that when purchasing the tickets. Larry provided some good info. I agree with Nicole’s timeline. I always allow for a 2.5 to 3 hour connection, but We/I have NEVER needed it. That layover time kept me relaxed in case of delays. We have always had time for breakfast at The Pilot’s Bar.

How required testing, if any, affects this, I don’t know.

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