Heathrow has had its fair share of detractors lately with BAA being lambasted for poor performance, leaves on the line and suchlike.
There would be good reason therefore for thinking that a trip through a functioning Terminal 3 would be little short of a joy – at least there’s a fair chance you’re going to get to where you’re going.
Enter another villain of the peace however: WH Smith. There are two parts to the Swindon-based retailer’s offer in this part of the airport: a standalone bookshop, generally good, and a standard WH Smith of the kind that you might find almost anywhere. This should be a reason to be cheerful - you can pick up a paper, have a look at some stuff you probably don’t want and rifle your way through the leftover bits and pieces that didn’t sell over Christmas – there must be something worth having.
And even if there isn’t, you can always make do with a bottle of water to keep you hydrated during the long hours in a crowded cabin that await. So you make your way to the checkouts via the queue management system. It’s a bit like going through the security line you’ve just come through only this time in place of trays to put your plastic bags in there are sweets, more sweets and things you neither need nor want.
Somewhere, somebody told someone in WH Smith that they could make a lot of money through impulse purchases. This is probably true, but the sheer profusion of stuff, for want of a better word, is likely to act as a deterrent rather than any kind of enticement. And because these are impulse lines they lack basic housekeeping, presumably because all of the staff were manning the tills intent on offering that bar of chocolate they’ve been told to push.
In short, this is the kind of retail experience that will put a damper on things ahead of your departure and you may well board the plane wondering why you feel so unaccountably glum. Terminal 3, like other parts of Heathrow, may be the last point before you go somewhere else, but why passengers should be treated as sub-economy drones merely because choice is limited is a moot point. This could and should be very much better than it is.
Oh yes and there’s a branch of HMV next door to WH Smith. Hard not to wonder how much longer it will be there. Perhaps WH Smith will be able to expand. Happy New Year, by the way.