Save time by using British Airways ‘overnight bag drop’ at Heathrow & Gatwick

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Air travel is noticeably less fun when the hours before a flight are spent in a seemingly never moving line waiting to drop off your checked baggage instead of relaxing in a lounge or at the gate and when it comes to long lines, London’s two primary airports can be especially bad. Fortunately, some British Airways flyers may be able to save themselves from the lines by using the airline’s ‘overnight bag drop‘ option.

How it works

As the name suggests, BA’s overnight bag drop option allows select passengers to drop off their checked luggage at the airport the evening before their flight. The way the overnight bag drop option works at Heathrow is slightly different from how it works at Gatwick so if you plan to use it, make sure you know the rules for the airport you’re departing from.

London Heathrow

British Airways passengers traveling on flights departing from Heathrow Terminals 3 or 5 can use the overnight bag drop option between 16:00 and 22:00 if their flight is departing before 10:00 the next day.

London Gatwick

British Airways passengers traveling on flights departing from Gatwick can use the overnight bag drop option between 16:00 and 21:00 if their flight is departing before 13:00 the next day.

At both airports

British Airways flyers can use any of the available bag drop desks to check in their bags and as long as all the bags being dropped off are for passengers on a single booking, only one person on the booking needs to be present to drop off the bags.

A passenger dropping off bags will need their travel documents and the results of any mandatory health tests to complete the drop-off process. If they’re dropping off bags for multiple passengers on the same booking, they will need to be able to produce the travel documents and any mandatory health test results for all the passengers.

How this can be useful

Clearly, if you live a good distance away from Heathrow/Gatwick or are not staying at one of the hotels close to the airports, this probably isn’t going to be an option that will make much difference to you.

If, however, getting to the airport the night before your flight is relatively easy (e.g. if you’re staying at the Sofitel Heathrow Terminal 5 or if you’re a short drive away) this option can be a good time saver.

Heathrow and Gatwick are usually a lot quieter in the late evening than they are in the morning so anyone dropping off their checked bags the night before departure is likely to spend a lot less time waiting in line. In fact, it’s possible that there won’t be any lines to wait in at all.

Also, passengers who cannot check in online (possibly because their destination requires an airport document check), can use the agents at Heathrow and Gatwick to check in at the same time as they drop off their bags leaving themselves with just a security line to deal with the following morning*. During peak travel periods, this could be the difference between a very stressful and a very relaxed start to a trip.

When I’m in the UK, I’m usually based within a 30-minute drive of Heathrow so when we’re traveling as a family and have a lot of bags to check, I make sure that I make the most of the overnight bag drop option even though I have access to the First Wing at T5 (where the lines are often inconsequential).

By using the overnight bag drop option I eliminate the risk that whatever car I’ve ordered to take us to the airport on the day of departure won’t be large enough for all the passengers and all the luggage (you’d be amazed what some companies consider a “mini-van or “extra large car”), and it means that we’re usually in one of the airport lounges within 20 minutes of getting to the airport on the day of our flight.

*Make sure you check what time the check-in desks close before you assume that you can check in at the airport the night before your flight. 

Bottom line

British Airways offers customers at Heathrow and Gatwick the option to drop their bags off the night before they’re scheduled to travel if their flight is departing the following morning. During busier times, this can save travelers a considerable amount of time and for parents traveling with children, it can make the day of travel experiences considerably less stressful.