London Heathrow Airport (LHR) is one of the busiest airports in the world, transporting over 80 million passengers in 2018. As a major connection hub for flights all over Europe, LHR has implemented efficient processes and transportation for airside flight connections.
Although you can only walk between Terminals 2 and 3, it’s quite easy to get between the other terminals by hopping on several free train services, one of which is the London Underground subway system so it is convenient for passengers looking to travel to/from London.
Terminals 2 and 5 are the most modern and recently built terminals with satellite terminals to accommodate larger planes and to reduce congestion within the main terminal buildings.
London Heathrow Airport Layout
Other than Terminals 2 and 3, LHR’s terminals are spread apart from one another.
Terminals 4 and 5 are the edge of the airport’s perimeter; whereas, Terminals 2 and 3 are situated between the 2 runways. Since there is only an underground tunnel for road traffic, making connection by the free bus, pre-security, can be a slow process. Thankfully, you can connect between terminals with the good underground train systems as a preferred alternative.
For passengers making a connecting flight, there is also the option of connecting by airside bus, and these routes are detailed in the map above as detailed by the thin grey lines running between terminals.
LHR Ground Transportation Pre-Security/Landside
If you are taking an onward flight without an official flight connection, then you may need to travel between terminals outside of the secured area. Depending on which terminals you are traveling between, there are a number of ways of getting around LHR.
The map above shows free travel routes around the airport with the dark blue and pale purple lines representing the train routes running between the terminals.
Passengers have the option to travel via a shuttle train with 4 departures an hour or by riding the regular London Underground trains that connect the terminals along with onward travel to London. Both options are free with the shuttle train requiring an inter-terminal transfer ticket that is available inside the station, or by tapping-in using an Oyster card or contactless credit/debit card. This doesn’t incur a charge; it’s just the method used to track entry and exit points.
The Heathrow Central station serves Terminals 2 and 3 with Terminals 4 and 5 having their own stations. From the Heathrow Central Station, again serving Terminals 2 and 3, it takes 16-20 minutes to travel by train to Terminals 4 or 5 accounting for walking time in and around the stations and waiting time.
Hot Tip: London Underground trains are free when using an Oyster card or contactless credit/debit card within the free zones indicated above. If you leave these zones, then you will incur a charge.
If you need to travel between Terminals 4 and 5, then you also have the option of riding a public bus for free.
- From Terminal 4, bus stop 7 – take bus 482 or bus 490 with final destination “Heathrow Terminal 5”.
- From Terminal 5, bus stop 7 – take bus 482 with final destination “Southall Town Hall” or bus 490 with final destination “Pools on the Park.”
Terminals 2 and 3 are situated quite close together, and it is possible to walk between these 2 terminals via a pedestrian underpass. It takes around 10 minutes to walk between the terminals with moving walkways available to use.
From Terminal 2, follow the signs to Terminal 3 by taking the elevator or escalator down to Level -1, walking through the pedestrian underpass (bypassing the London Underground station), and following the walkway around.
From Terminal 3 ground check-in level, take the stairs near the Virgin Atlantic check-in desks or the elevator/escalator located opposite Zone D down to Level -1. From here, you can walk through the pedestrian underpass to Terminal 3 with the route well signposted.
LHR Ground Transportation Post-Security/Airside
For multi-leg flights booked with flight connections, you should be able to remain airside to travel to the departure terminal for your onward flight. Once you have disembarked your first flight at LHR, follow the signs for flight connections where a shuttle bus will transfer you to your connecting terminal. Buses depart every 6-10 minutes.
Hot Tip: LHR states that there are a few airlines that are unable to transfer luggage for flight connections, so check with your airline whether you will need to collect your bags and re-check-in for your connection.
Layout of LHR Terminals
LHR Terminal 2
Terminal 2 (T2) is the smallest terminal, split across multiple levels and zones. Mostly European flights operate from T2 with some long-haul international flights also operating in the terminal
Level 5: Check-in
The check-in area is located on Level 5 accessible directly from the T2 parking lot, or if you’re arriving by bus, taxi, or private drop-off, then you will need to take the escalator/elevator from Level 0 to Level 5 departures.
If you’re connecting to T2, then you likely wouldn’t need to pass through the check-in area as you would arrive airside on the flight connections bus.
Level 5: Departures
Once you’ve passed through the main security checkpoint, you’ll emerge into the Level 5 departures area where there are shops, restaurants, and the Air Lingus and Lufthansa lounges. The gates are not accessible from this level.
Level 4: Departures – A Gates
From Level 5 departures, take the stairs, escalator, or elevator to Level 4 Departures for access to the A gates and onward access to B gates. Level 4 Departures has 10 gates numbered A16-A26 that are all approximately 650 feet (200 meters) from security or about a 5-minute walk.
More shops and restaurants are located on this level, along with the Plaza Premium Lounge and entry point for T2 connections.
Terminal 2B: B Gates
If your flight is departing from one of the B gates, then you will need to follow the signs for these gates, taking a left at gate A16. Take the escalator/elevator to Level -2 and walk through the underground tunnel with moving walkways, before heading back up using the escalator/elevator to B gates Level 1.
B gates are half a mile (800 meters) from security and take around 20 minutes to walk to from security. Terminal 2B has 14 gates numbered B31-B33, B36, B38, B39, B41-B44, and B46-B49.
Level 1: Arrivals
If arriving on an international flight, then you will need to clear immigration on Level 1 and claim your bags if necessary. Once you’ve cleared customs, you will emerge into the arrivals area for passengers and non-passengers.
There are a few shops and cafes on this level, as well as the United Arrivals Lounge and Plaza Premium Lounge.
Ground Floor: Arrivals – Onward Travel
From Level 1 Arrivals, take the stairs, escalator, or elevator to Level 0 where you can access onward travel options such as buses and taxis, or continue to Level -1 for the walkway to London Underground services and Terminal 3.
LHR Terminal 3
Terminal 3 (T3) is located next to Terminal 2, and they are the only 2 terminals connected via a walkway. T3 operates mostly long-haul international routes, along with some European flights. The facilities at T3 are spread across a few floors so there can be quite a bit of walking involved to get around T3.
Ground Floor: Check-in
From curbside drop-off or via public transportation, you will arrive on the Ground Level and walk straight into the check-in area at T3. Use the boards to find the applicable check-in zone for your airline, and once you’re all checked-in, you can proceed upstairs to Level 1 Upper Departures.
Level 1: Departures
This level has a zone outside of the secure area before clearing security. There are some shops and restaurants in this area, along with the Regus Express Business Lounge and Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing for expedited check-in.
Level 1: Departure Lounge
Once you have cleared the security checkpoint, you will arrive into the Level 1 Departures lounge where there is a huge variety of shops, bars and restaurants.
T3 has 29 gates, split across 3 areas. Gates numbered 1, 3, 3a, 5, 5a, 7, 9, and 11 are located to the left as you come into the Departures lounge and is about a 10-minute walk.
Gates 13 and 16-22 are located straight ahead as you come through the departure lounge, so getting to your gate can be up to a 20-minute walk. Gates 23-32, 34-36, 40, and 42 are located to the right. Gates 25-29 are up to a 10-minute walk and Gates 30-42 are up to a 20-minute walk.
The Departure lounge is also home to the American Admirals Club®, Qantas London Lounge, British Airways Galleries Lounge, Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, and Emirates Lounge.
Ground Floor: Arrivals
The arrivals area is located on the same level as check-in on the ground floor, but is located in the north part of the terminal. Once you come through passport control, you’ll take the stairs or elevator/escalator to the ground level and baggage claim.
There are a number of shops and restaurants located outside of the secure area, along with access to onward travel.
Ground Floor – Arrivals (Onward Travel)
From the arrivals area, you can make your way to Level -1 to walk through an underground walkway to London Underground train services, or exit the terminal on the ground level for buses, taxis, and curbside pick-up.
LHR Terminal 4
Terminal 4 (T4) is located at the south end of the airport and is not connected to another terminal with any direct walkways. Passengers must travel from T4 to other terminals via the airside connection bus or outside of the secure area by train or bus. T4 serves a combination of long and short-haul international flights.
Level 2 and Mezzanine: Check-in
T4 check-in is located on the top level (Level 2) with curbside pick-up and drop-off located outside of the terminal on the same level. The security checkpoint is located in the middle of the check-in zones.
Level 2: Departure2 Lounge
Once you’ve cleared security, you arrive at the Departures lounge on the same level. T4 has 24 gates numbered 1C, 2, 3, 5-12, 14-17, and 19-25. Gates are 650 feet to a quarter of a mile (200-400 meters) from security and take 5-10 minutes to walk to.
Gates 7-9 are directly ahead after clearing security, gates 1C-6 are to the left, gates 9-21 are to the right, and gates 22-25 are to the right and through a long connector tunnel with moving walkways.
Ground Floor and Mezzanine: Arrivals
When arriving on a flight into T4, you will pass through immigration on the Level 1 mezzanine before continuing to the ground level arrivals area to collect any luggage and clear customs.
There are a few shops and cafes in the arrivals hall, and you have access to ground transportation outside of the terminal on this level.
Ground Floor: Arrivals – Onward Travel
Outside of the arrivals hall are the pick-up areas for shuttle services, taxis, and buses. To catch the London Underground or a train to another terminal, then you need to make your way to Level -1, where the stations are situated.
LHR Terminal 5
Terminal 5 (T5) is the largest and busiest of the 4 terminals at LHR, serving almost 33 million passengers in 2018 compared to only 9.4 million passengers from T4. T5 is used exclusively by British Airways and is split across 8 levels, including underground walkways and ground transportation services.
T5 consists of the main terminal building and 2 satellite terminals, 5B and 5C, connected by a walkway or transit train.
Level 3: Check-in
The check-in area is located on Level 3 and is on the same level as curbside pick-up/drop-off and access to the T5 short-stay parking lot. There are almost 100 check-in kiosks available, in addition to staffed check-in desks, and the 2 security checkpoints are located at either end of the terminal.
Level 3: Departures Lounge
Once you have cleared security you will arrive at the Level 3 Departures lounge, where there are a number of shops and restaurants. The British Airways Concorde Room, Galleries Lounge, and First Class Lounge are also located on this level.
Level 2: Departures – Gates A1–A23
To reach the departure gates, take the stairs or elevator/escalator to Level 2 where you will have access to the A gates and onward access to the B and C gates.
The A gates are numbered A1-A3, A5-A9, and A11-A23 with the lower numbered gates located at the north end of the terminal and the higher numbered gates at the south. A gates are around .25 miles (400 meters) from security and is about a 10-minute walk. There are more shops (including Duty-Free,) restaurants, and the Plaza Premium Lounge on this level.
Terminal 5B: Departures – Gates B32–B48
Terminal 5B is a satellite terminal located between the main terminal building and Terminal 5C. Terminal 5B has gates numbered B32-B39 and B42-B48, and a small selection of shops and restaurants.
To reach Terminal 5B, either ride the transit train or walk through the underground passageway with moving walkways; both take around 10 minutes. The train and walkway are situated between gates A14 and A15 in the main building with the walkway on Level -4 and the train on Level -2.
Once you arrive, gates B32-B35 and B45-B48 are located in the north end of the terminal and gates B36-B39, and B42-B44 are located in the south end. There is another British Airways Galleries Lounge in Terminal 5B.
Terminal 5C: Departures – Gates C52–C66
Terminal 5C is another satellite terminal next to Terminal 5B and the furthest from the main building. To reach Terminal 5C, you can ride the transit train from the main building or use the underground passageway with moving walkways; both are located between gates A14 and A15 in the main terminal building and take around 15 minutes.
Terminal 5C has 12 gates numbered C52-C57 and C61-C66 with gates C55-C57 and C62-C64 located in the north end of the terminal, and gates C52-C54 and C65 and C66 located in the south end. There are a few shops and cafes within this terminal but significantly less than available in 5B or the main terminal.
Ground Floor: Arrivals
When arriving at either of the satellite terminals, the transit train or underground passageways will transport you to where you need to take the escalator/elevator to Level 1 for immigration or flight connections. Once you have cleared immigration, you’ll travel back downstairs to the ground level arrivals area and baggage claim.
Ground Floor: Arrivals – Onward Travel
There are a few shops and cafes within the arrivals hall, and outside of the terminal is where you will find onward travel services for buses, taxis, and trains (located at Level -2.)
Estimated Walking Times Between Terminals
In some situations, it may be quicker to walk than ride the train, as the travel time to the station and waiting period may be longer.
- Walking between Terminals 2 and 3: around 10 minutes
- Walking between Terminal 5 main building and the 5B satellite terminal: around 10 minutes
- Walking between Terminal 5 main building and the 5C satellite terminal: around 15 minutes
Connecting between any other terminal requires riding a train or bus. Please refer to the ground transportation section mentioned earlier for a great reference.
Flight Connections at LHR
Connecting is easy at LHR with purple “Flight Connections” signs guiding you on arrival. If you’re arriving on an international or domestic flight connecting to an international flight, then you won’t need to clear immigration at LHR. If you’re arriving on an international flight connecting to a domestic flight, then you will need to clear immigration on arrival.
If your luggage is checked through to your final destination, then you won’t need to collect your luggage at LHR. Once you’ve checked the flight connection boards to confirm your onward terminal number, ride the flight connections bus directly there and visit the airline desk if you require an onward boarding card.
All passengers must re-clear security at their connecting terminal before being able to relax in the departures lounge to await their flight.
Hot Tip: LHR has a convenient flight connections guide where you can fill in your flight details to see a step-by-step guide to your connection with estimated journey times.
If you have booked two separate tickets, then you would need to clear immigration, collect your baggage, clear customs, and use one of the landside ground transportation methods to travel to your onward terminal to check-in as normal.
LHR states that there are a few airlines that are unable to transfer luggage on a flight connection, so make sure you confirm with your airline before you travel.
London Heathrow’s terminals are all accessible to passengers with disabilities, mobility concerns, and wheelchair users. All flight connection buses are available to passengers with reduced mobility, and the shuttle train that travels between terminals is at platform level.
The London Underground stations at all Heathrow terminals have elevator access, and special assistance buses can be found in the forecourt outside of each terminal, available for terminal connections.
Electric buggies are available to transport passengers to and from the departure gates and there are phones located in the terminals, parking lots, and stations for assistance.
Phone Numbers for Assistance
- Short-stay parking lots: +44 (0)20 8757 2700
- Long-stay parking lots: +44 (0)20 8745 4625
- Central bus station: +44 (0)20 8757 2700
- London Underground – All Terminals: +44 (0)20 8757 2700
London Heathrow is a huge airport with large terminals that sometimes do require quite a bit walking to reach the departure gate. Saying that, LHR has plenty of moving walkways to make the journey a bit easier. It was even the U.K.’s first airport to have a moving walkway in 1970.
If you’re flying from one of Terminal 5’s satellite terminals, then you can choose to walk or ride the train from the main building; however, it’s a little disappointing that LHR didn’t build a train to its newer Terminal 2 satellite building, which can take up to 20 minutes to walk to a gate!
Without the need to clear immigration, if arriving on an international flight with an onward connection (non-domestic), it’s a pretty slick process with connection buses available airside to take you directly to your next terminal.