Heathrow, humans, and hamsters: our role at the 3rd busiest airport in the world

2017-11-03T18:36:57+00:00 November 3rd, 2017|Blog|

If you’ve been following our social media pages, then you’ll have seen our recent post regarding the bountiful trivia and statistics that Heathrow holds. As the third busiest airport in the world some of the numbers are staggering, for example, 5 million eggs are used each year to provide passengers with breakfast- and staff once gave a hippo a bath before boarding it onto the plane. Unbelievable, right? What you might also find hard to believe is how dedicated our team is. Angels are at the airport all hours of the day, meeting, greeting and making sure students, adults and groups are safeguarded whilst we are with them. Just to clarify, we operate across many locations in the UK- Heathrow just happens to be the most interesting.

Here at Airport Angels we don’t want to bore you with just numbers, we want to explain what we do, and how we do it. We’re open about our process. But to give some insight into the complexity of the job and the madness that can be Heathrow we will use some of these fun facts to help you out. Excuse the airport puns, but strap-in, ‘cause we’re about to take off…

Heathrow serves 81 airlines from 194 countries and in 2016, the daily average total number of passengers was 206,800, split 51% arrivals to 49% departures. What do all these numbers mean? They mean that our Angels are constantly busy. Our team is split across the 4 working terminals to meet and greet an array of people. We help foreign language students taxi to their schools; group visits check-in to their flights; individual passengers transfer between terminals and we’ve even helped a few celebrities. Our encompassing service is vital to help navigate the Heathrow terminals, and our Angels certainly get a good workout- you should see the steps on their Fitbit. According to their website, the total size of Heathrow is 4.6 square miles (12 square kilometres), which makes for a lot of walking for us.

Flights at Heathrow begin arriving and departing at 4.30am; it’s not unusual for one of our team to be waiting at 4am for travellers to arrive, and even earlier if you require a check-in service. There are no flights too early or too late for the team, as long as they’re fuelled by coffee, of which Heathrow sells 35,000 cups a year (yes, we do carry loyalty cards). Airport Angels caters to the needs of the client, so, that steal of a deal you got on your 5am flight to Alicante may be good news for you, but it means another stamp on the loyalty card for us.

1400 flights arrive and depart each day at Heathrow- one every 45 seconds. The sheer volume of passengers coming in makes the terminals manic as ‘Heathrow handles more than 80 per cent of all long-haul passengers who come to the UK. Only seven per cent of passengers are domestic’ according the Express.The long-haul fliers are usually here for pleasure, but thanks to the charm of inconsistent British weather, they often need to pack multiple outfits. This results in passengers carrying a lot of luggage. The dreaded problem. The Heathrow website states, ‘Annual Cargo volume reaches 1.54 million metric tonnes’, and at times, it feels like that’s just one student’s suitcase. We are constantly having to help travellers rejig their luggage to make weight- like a boxer cutting for a fight, except we’re shedding shoes and souvenirs instead of fat. It’s much easier to figure this out at home without thousands of people around, but if you need our help we will always assist you. For future reference though, it’s around 22kg to be in fighting shape for flight.

These long-haul flights allow us to meet thousands of people from all over the world, and our staff love learning about new cultures, but as much as we love talking to our clients, we know you want to board your flight or taxi ASAP and we try to guarantee your journey will be as quick as possible. But should you be unlucky enough to encounter a delay, our team will be by your side to wait, and continue the conversation. In most cases, we cannot control the delays, and the biggest contributor to wait times is traffic. We have partnerships with taxi companies- some of which are Black Cabs- who are phenomenal with timekeeping and assist us with our departures and arrivals. As amazing as they are, they cannot control traffic, which is one of the major issues surrounding the Heathrow area. For example, the Express wrote that ‘a vehicle breakdown on Heathrow’s inbound tunnel will lead to a traffic jam on the M4, 15 miles away, in just seven minutes.’ This domino-effect of traffic can cause problems but we always assure you, if you booked an Angel, you get an Angel. We will wait.

If you are caught in a delay, Heathrow happens to be an extremely safe place, with the Express reporting that it has ‘More than 6,500 CCTV cameras [to] monitor the airport and every day more than 200,000 bags are put through Heathrow’s security system.’ Armed police officers can be seen patrolling the terminals from time, but the real safety comes from the Angels. We are constantly on hand to help navigate the terminals, assist check-in procedures and guard luggage should you need to go buy a snack. Customer safety and satisfaction is our biggest concern because if we can safely send you on your travels, then we’ve achieved our goal. We aren’t sharks circling your money- we don’t want to confuse you, we simply want to get you from A to B so you don’t ask need to ask why.

Speaking of sharks, our primary, and only, cliental are humans- but that doesn’t stop other passengers sneaking in some furry friends. According to the Express, ‘The Heathrow Animal Reception Centre (HARC) receives and cares for more than 80million animals each year, including 45million invertebrates, seven million live eggs, 28million fish and 13,000 cats and dogs.’ At Airport Angels, we are yet to deal with a hidden hamster or a disguised dog so our knowledge of travelling with animals is minimal. We’d recommend checking with airline before you try it and if they’re fine with it, please still give us a heads up.

Heathrow’s final flights are at 11.30pm each day; this is when they power down for the evening to complete system checks and general maintenance. Much like the airport itself, our team is ready to power down at the end of the day. The airport can be a tiring, hectic place with hordes of humans, lots of luggage and, hopefully, a little laughter. Airport Angels operate at the 3rd busiest airport in the world and it is no easy task, but we have a dedicated team that work tirelessly to safeguard students, groups and VIPs so we can make your travels that little bit simpler. So, remember this, whether you’re human or hamster, if you book with Airport Angels you’re chaperoned by the number one team in the third busiest airport- that will never change.