Review: Heathrow Express first class

By David Flynn, March 29 2016
Review: Heathrow Express first class

You'll pay £22 (A$41) for one-way standard economy seating (aka Express) on London's Heathrow Express, or £30 (A$56) to ride in the first class 'Business First' carriage – so what does that extra £8 each way get you?

Not a lot, as it turns out.

It'll get you between London's Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station in exactly the same 15 minute sprint, just with a little extra comfort.

You'll be able to swap the crowded standard cabins with their 2-2 seating layout...

... for a queiter space where seating is arranged 1-1.

(Why is it quieter? As best I can figure it's partly because the Business First carriages are never as crowded as their economy-class counterparts, and also because they tend to be solo frequent flyers or well-travelled couples rather than families and excited first-time-in-London visitors.)

The Business First class seats on the Heathrow Express are a little wider, with a little more legroom.

And rather than sharing an AC or USB power socket, Business First travellers get their own plugs plus a small table.

And, well, that's about it – unless you count the scant scattering of 'reading material' which nobody seems to bother with. And why would they, on a 15 minute ride with free WiFi?

That said, there's one time when first class on the Heathrow Express is absolutely worth it – and that's when you buy a standard economy ticket but use your Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer card for a free upgrade to Business First.

Read: Free Heathrow Express first class upgrade for Star Alliance Gold

That's the card I played during a recent trip to London, and it worked a treat: I simply showed the ticket inspector my economy ticket and a Star Alliance Gold-grade card.

This is one reason it's worth pocketing a Star Alliance Gold status match whenever such promotions arise.

If you're planning a ride on the Heathrow Express, booking in advance (between 14 and 90 dayes) can yield substantial savings – and to save time at the airport or Heathrow Express station, digital tickets can be bought via the Heathrow Express app for iPhone or Android devices.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1248

OT but that first class logo on the cabin wall looks like a cross between the logos of Mercedes Benz and X-Men.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2012

Total posts 159

The only time it is worth it, is if 2nd class is totally full. So far, I have been lucky never to experience this. Otherwise it is only a 15 minute journey (at least from Heathrow Central) and a good time to simply chill.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

20 Dec 2013

Total posts 33

I catch the Tube. Picadilly line goes much further into London.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

20 Dec 2013

Total posts 33

Lot cheaper too.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2012

Total posts 159

Tube is good if you have not too much luggage.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 32

That's a good point, actually. If you need to go further than Paddington from Heathrow, the HEX may or may not save you much time compared to the Tube.

For example, from Heathrow 5 to Kings Cross St Pancras, from the TfL calculator, it is about 12 minutes faster to go via Paddington, however you can also just take the Piccadilly line and sit on one service all the way.

Similarly, it is about 14 minutes faster to use the HEX to get to Bank, but you need two tube changes after disembarking at Paddington, versus only one tube change with an all-tube route.

It's always worth checking where you're going in London and checking with the TfL journey calculator. To calculate the route without using the HEX, make sure you click on Travel Options & Accessibility and turn off National Rail.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 372

Definitely not worth it. I only go 1st class as I have a rail pass which includes travel on the Heathrow Express. Save your money!!

Air China - Phoenix Miles

05 Jun 2015

Total posts 9

do you know when the Heathrow Ex/Star Alliance promotion ends?

British Airways - Executive Club

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 47

Smart travellers take the Heathrow Connect. Its only about 10 Pounds when compared to the HEX and its only like 10 minutes slower.

HEX has got to be the most over priced airport train service. Take examples of Hong Kong's Airport Express (HK$100 = GBP 9) for a journey that's longer and more efficiently run, Oslo's Flytoget (NOK 180 = GBP 18) that is a longer and more comfortable ride (not to mention much older than HEX), and Kuala Lumpur's KLIA Ekspres (MYR55 = GBP 10).

And if you have more than 2 people , don't take the HEX. It will effectively be cheaper to get an airport transfer by car. There are many companies able to offer a oneway from LHR to the West End for around GBP 40.

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