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The BA First Wing security lanes are closed. This is what it’s like now.

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As we reported last week, British Airways has, without any real warning, closed the two security lanes that are attached to the First Wing at London Heathrow T5 while works are done to install new scanners.

Since then, I’ve had a chance to try out the alternative arrangement and as promised in last week’s article, here’s an update on what eligible passengers can expect.

What’s the First Wing?

The First wing is a dedicated check-in area at the south end of Heathrow T5 that can be used by BA’s top-tier elites, First Class flyers, and Oneworld Emerald elites.

Not only does the First Wing offer eligible flyers somewhere to check-in away from the crowds in the terminal, but it also allows them to clear security though two dedicated lanes that lead from the First Wing check-in desks straight into the British Airways First Lounge.

As far as I’m concerned, access to the First Wing is one of the best benefits of British Airways Gold status – the First Wing can make the start of a trip so much more relaxing and calmer than it may otherwise be.

What’s going on?

The British government has said that it wants all the UK’s airports to have the latest generation of security scanners installed by the middle of the year so that it can push ahead with plans to lift the hand baggage liquid limit that has been around for what seems like forever.

There’s no chance that the Government’s deadline of July 2024 will be met, but works to replace the old scanners are happening all around the UK and it’s because the scanners at the First Wing need to be replaced, that the First Wing security lanes were closed (very suddenly) last week.

What happens now?

With the First Wing security lanes set to be closed for up to 4 months (no, I don’t know why it’s taking that long either), British Airways has made alternative arrangements for passengers with access to the First Wing.

Signs indicating that alternative arrangements have been made have been posted near the First Wing and possibly in other parts of the terminal as well …

a sign in an airport

… and while eligible passengers can still check-in at the First Wing as usual, if they turn to their right to head towards the entrance to the First Wing Security lanes, they’ll find that they’re faced with a blocked entrance.

a podium in front of a wall a sign on the wall

Two lanes that at the start of last week were still part of the Terminal 5 South Fasttrack area (a 30 seconds’ walk away from the First Wing) have now been repurposed as ‘First Wing security’.

a line of information in a building a security gate in an airport

What it’s like

I used the new security lanes in the middle of a weekday morning (around 09:30) and this was the view I was presented with after I passed through the automated boarding pass barriers:

a group of people standing in a line

Both lanes were manned and working and while it felt busier than the real First Wing, I think that had more to do with the fact that these lanes sit in a smaller than the area surrounding the First Wing security line (logically, no more people should be passing though the temporary facility than normally pass through the First Wing so it shouldn’t be busier).

Importantly, passengers were processed reasonably quickly (it was a bit slower than the First Wing but not significantly so) and the staff manning the two lanes were pleasant and polite and didn’t appear to want to take a break every 5 minutes.

That’s really the most important observation I made because based on my experiences of ‘regular’ security at Heathrow T5, you have, at best, a 50% chance of encountering staff who actually try to do a decent job (from everyone’s point of view) and who don’t get a kick out of being needlessly rude.

I’ve never had an issue with the security staff when passing thought the usual First Wing lanes, but I’ve witnessed more than my fair share of horrors in the regular lanes (most of which didn’t involve me), so it was nice to see smiling faces and an absence of ‘attitude’ in the temporary First Wing lanes.

Yes, I may have just been lucky and future experiences may not be as good (I don’t know if Heathrow only assigns certain staff to the First Wing or if all staff get to work these lanes) but at least I got off to a good start.

I’ll be passing through T5 quite a few more times in the next two months so I’ll report back if things appear to have gone downhill.

The one downside to all of this is that unless you’re a passenger with access to the Concorde Room (whose second and less well-known entrance is found at the exit to the temporary First Wing lanes), you will now have to navigate a significant part of T5’s shopping areas before you make it to the relative calm of the First Lounge.

Bottom line

As of last week, the security lanes attached to the Heathrow T5 First Wing are closed for up to 4 months while works to upgrade the scanners are carried out.

During the closure, passengers who are eligible to access the First Wing can use two new dedicated lanes that can be found a short walk from the First Wing check-in desks and based on my first experience of these lanes, other than the fact that most First Wing passengers will now have to negotiate the shopping areas of T5 before they get to their lounge of choice, this doesn’t look like it’s going to be a particularly big inconvenience.

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