Preparing to travel

Preparing to travel
Terminal 3
Preparing to travel
Travel advice for anxious passengers
About this guide
• About this guide
• Finding your way around Terminal 3
• Sensory awareness – What you can expect
• Information – Asking for help at the airport
This guide is aimed at anyone who might feel a bit anxious about
travelling through Heathrow, after all Heathrow is a large busy airport
• Step-by-step journey planner – Departures
and the journey through the airport can seem complex especially if
you don’t know what to expect or what is expected of you.
Plenty of help is at hand, you just need to know where to find it.
Over the years we’ve had a lot of experience in assisting anxious
travellers and we hope that this guide will enable you to prepare for
your forthcoming trip to Heathrow and be confident in the knowledge
that Heathrow might be big, but we’re not scary.
We understand that everyone is different and if after reading
this guide you still have concerns about your departures journey
through Heathrow or if you just need more information then please
• Preparing for
Pre-Security Preparation
Ticket Presentation
Security Search
Departure Lounge and Facilities
Flight Information
Finding your Departure Gate
Boarding the Aircraft
• Additional sources of information
don’t hesitate to contact us.
• Preparation checklist
Finding your way around Terminal 3
Finding your way around Terminal 3
Finding your way
around Terminal 3
Terminal 3 is one large building, with long piers where the aircraft park.
Check-in and arrivals are both on the ground floor, with zones A – G in
the check-in area. The departures area (security) is on the first floor
upstairs from the check-in zones. Lifts, escalators or stairs will take you
up to security.
Because Heathrow is so busy it’s not
possible to tell you which part of
Terminal 3 that your flight will depart
from until nearer your departure time.
Digital information screens, located
throughout the terminal, will provide you
with this information and will tell you
when it’s time to go to your gate
If you travel to Terminal 3 by car, coach or taxi, you will by dropped off
outside the main terminal building. If you travel to
Terminal 3 by train, underground or bus, you will
be dropped off at our central terminal area –
which is located between
Terminals 2 and 3.
Short Stay
From here, just follow the
signs for Terminal 3
Visual Symbols
Visual symbols, like this picture of our yellow signage can be seen
throughout the terminal, as well as within this guide.
Inside the main terminal
building you will find airline
desks, check-in, security
and most of our shops,
restaurants and facilities.
The departures area is separated by
zones for each airline . There are signs
when you arrive telling you what zone to check in at.
Here are some of the icons that you may see on our signage. The
information within this guide will tell you what you can expect at
each stage of your Departures journey.
Visit to view and download maps of Terminal 3.
Check with your airline how far in advance
you can check in.
Download ‘Heathrow Airport Guide’ from
your app store to start to plan your journey
before you arrive at Heathrow.
What you can expect
A busy airport can be a very
hostile environment if you
have a sensory processing
disorder. There are lots of
reflective surfaces, bright
lights, alarms, crowd
congestion and lots of
unfamiliar tastes and smells.
We cannot offer a sensory
friendly environment but we
can tell you what you can
expect and help you to come
up with a plan.
Sensory awareness
Taste and Smell
Reflective surfaces, different
coloured lights, digital screens.
Gasoline, air fresheners,
perfumes, materials, food
smells, cleaning products
Temperature, crowded areas,
unfamiliar surfaces
Things that might be helpful
Sensory toys, multi-layer clothing
Things that might be helpful
Sun glasses
Things that might be helpful
Scented handkerchief
Things that might be useful:
Sensory toys
Weighted back pack
Soft play area
Headphones or ear defenders
Body awareness
Tannoys, vehicle noise, alarms,
crowd conversation, strange
Escalators, trolleys,
Escalators, congested areas
Things that might be helpful
Things that might be helpful
Use lifts. If you feel dizzy or faint
please request a wheelchair loan
or assistance.
Try to avoid the crowds by getting
off the plane last or using lifts.
Things that might be helpful
Music, headphones, ear
Using lifts instead of escalators
Multi-layer clothing
Keep safe! Trolleys, escalators and
baggage reclaim belts can
A wide range of snacks is available
to purchase from our food outlets.
Asking for help at the airport
Here to help locations
We have a number of fixed
locations where you can find a
person to speak to if you need
Help call points
Help Call Points can be found all around
Heathrow. The call point could look different
than the picture above. A map of Help Call
point locations can be found here:
Calls made from one of our Help Call points
are answered by our Airport Operations
Centre. It is just like calling someone on
loudspeaker phone. Press the button and
wait for someone to answer before
Other people who can help me
Can’t find help?
Approach an
Airport Worker –
they will be
wearing an ID.
How to Get Assistance
If you suddenly need help during your
journey, there are several things you can
• Look for a person wearing the Helping
Hand badge.
• Use a Help Call Point
• Speak to anyone wearing an Airport ID
who can direct you in the right direction
• Look for a nearby here to help location
Main Building (Before
Level 0, Arrivals hall - Ambassador
position at the Information desk.
Level 1, Departures - Special
Assistance Area, opposite Pret above
Zone A
Main Building (After Security)
Near World Duty Free, past the toilets
Please note that whilst we are passionate
about transforming customer service at
Heathrow, we are on a journey with our
hidden disabilities programme to develop
it to suit our passengers. We already have
over 1000 colleagues trained to assist you
and are working to expand this across our
Departures journey - Summary
journey planner
Check-in and
Bag Drop
Prepare for
Security Search
Departure Gate
If you need a boarding
pass or if you have a bag
to check-in then this can
be done in the Terminal 3
Departures Check-in
To help you get through
security quicker you
should check that your
bags don’t contain any
liquids, sharp objects or
other forbidden objects.
Once you have your
boarding pass and have
checked in any bags that
you need to you should
go to the first floor via the
lifts, stairs or escalators
and go to security.
Read the “Pre-Security
Preparation” section
within this guide.
If you need additional
help then go to the
Special Assistance
area upstairs from
Zone A check-in
Use the visual prompts
and signage before
security to remind you
of the security rules.
Only passengers who
have a valid boarding
pass are allowed to go
beyond this point.
You will need to show
your boarding pass to go
through the barrier.
Use the desk that is
manned by the officer
instead of using the
automatic gate.
There is a lot to see and
do in the Departure
Lounge and it can get
very busy.
The departure gate is the
location where you will
exit the Terminal building
to board your aircraft.
This is where you and
your belongings are
checked to make sure
that you are not carrying
anything considered to
be dangerous.
You should remain
in the main seating and
shopping area until you
are provided with your
departure gate number.
There will be plenty of
information which will
help you to confirm
whether you are in the
right place.
Read the “Pre-Security
Preparation” section
within this guide”
Read the “Departure
Lounge Facilities”
section within this guide.
The airline agent will tell
you when it is time to
board the aircraft.
ambassadors can be
found in this area,
should you need any
This area can get very
congested and noisy
so headphones to
listen to music or ear
defenders can be
useful .
If you’re feeling
anxious then you
should ask for help
from the airline service
agent at your
departure gate.
All passengers need to
go through security
Preparing to travel
If you have bags to check in:
• Go to a check-in desk in your airline zone and wait to speak to an
airline representative
• Bags that are checked-in (hold baggage) will be taken to the
aircraft using a series of conveyor belts. They will then be loaded
in to a special area of the aircraft (baggage hold) reserved just for
suitcases and cargo.
• You will be given a receipt which you should keep safe until you
have been reunited with your bag at your destination airport.
• The airline representative will print your boarding pass for you.
• Once you have your boarding pass and have checked in any bags
that you need to, you should make your way up to security.
Security is located above the check-in zones.
Before you get to the Airport
Take time to review the security information on the
Heathrow website and the baggage section on your
airline’s website. This will help you to decide whether
you need to check in a bag or whether you can carry it
on the aircraft as hand luggage.
At the Airport
If you need any help then go to the Special Assistance area
on level 1, upstairs from check in zone A.
Self-service checkin machines are
also available for
some airlines.
If you do not have bags to check in:
• If you did not print your boarding pass at home, go to a checkin desk in your airline zone and wait to speak to an airline
• They will print your boarding pass for you.
• Once you have this you should make your way upstairs to
• If you already have your boarding pass printed and have no
bags to drop off go straight to security when you arrive at the
Pre-Security Preparation
Preparing to travel
In this area you will find lots of visual prompts to remind
you of what you are allowed to take through security. A
traffic-light colour coding system (red, amber, green) will
help you to decide what action, if any, you need to take.
Only passengers who have a boarding pass
which is valid for travel are allowed into the
pre-security preparation area.
At this stage in your journey you should only
have your hand baggage with you. Any hold
baggage will have already been given to your
airline at bag drop/check-in.
Passenger Service Ambassadors (dressed
in a purple uniform) are located in this area
to answer any questions you might have.
If you have any of the items on you
at this point which are shown as
being forbidden through security
then you should put them in the bins
Any liquids, gels, creams or pastes
(max 100ml per item) should be
placed in to one of the re-sealable
plastic bags available. You will need
to show this bag to an officer when
you get to the Security search area.
Ticket Presentation
Preparing to travel
If the gate does not automatically
open, further instructions will be given
to you on the small information
You will be directed by the information
on the screen to go and see the
officer at the desk who will be able to
At this stage in your journey, checks will be made
to make sure you have a valid boarding card.
The automatic gates will scan your boarding pass
to check whether you have a boarding pass which is
valid for travel.
Always keep your boarding pass and passport
in the same pocket or bag so that you don’t
struggle finding them.
The automatic gates are quick and easy to use but there are
occasions where you might be unable to use an automatic gate
and will need to go to the assistance desk where a security
officer will help you.
When to seek assistance?
If you have no barcode on your boarding pass
If you are travelling with young children
If you are aged 16 and under
If you have trouble using the automatic gate
If you would prefer to have the checks done by an officer
Security Search
You are now approaching
security search and you
should expect to queue.
Preparing to travel
When you reach the front
of the security search lane
you should put your
possessions into the trays
provided (remembering to
follow the four simple steps
on the left). This should be
followed by your hand
luggage and any other
items that we recommend
you to remove such as
your watch, belt, hat, shoes
or other large metal
jewellery items.
Any baggage or items
placed in the trays will now
be x-rayed to check that
you have no items that
could be considered
unsafe on-board an
Whilst your bag goes
through the X-ray machine
you will be asked to walk
through an archway metal
If the archway metal
detector beeps and flashes
a red light when you walk
through it, then an officer
will need to do further
security checks.
You can use as many trays
as you need.
You will lose sight of your
things for a moment while
they go through the x-ray
If your baggage/trays pass
the security check then
they will appear out of the
x-ray machine, ready to
collect, after you’ve walked
through the archway metal
If your baggage fails the
security screening process
then it will be put to one
side and an officer will
need to do further security
checks which will include a
manual search of your
bag. You may have to wait
for a while.
You should not walk
through the archway until
the officer calls you forward
or makes a hand gesture
telling you to approach
If the light on the archway
flashes green when you
walk through and no beep
is heard, you can now
collect your bag and any
other possessions that you
were separated from.
If your bag has been put
aside to be searched you
will have to wait until it has
been returned to you.
The officer will ask you to
stand with your arms
and legs apart while they
gently pat your clothing.
They will use a hand metal
detector to check that you
have not got any sharp
items or weapons on you.
You might also be asked to
go through a body scanner.
See glossary for further
Departure Lounge
Preparing For
In the main departures lounge you will find lots of shops,
restaurants and facilities. You will also find all of the
Departure Gates.
Main Departures Lounge
With so much to see and do
in the Terminal it’s important
that you remember to get to
your Departure Gate on time.
Information to help you find
exactly when and where in
the terminal your flight will
depart from can be found on
the information screens or by
checking the Heathrow app.
Our yellow information signs will show you the direction to,
and time it takes to walk to your departure gate.
More information on all of the facilities on offer within
Terminal 3, including maps can be found on the Heathrow
website, on our app, or displayed at key information points
around the building.
Departure Lounge Facilities
Special Assistance
Family Lounge
You will find the special
assistance area within the
World Duty Free shop past
the toilets.
For younger passengers
there is access to a Soft
Play Area located by the
Ted Baker store, just follow
the signs for Lounge A.
Stairs and a lift will get you
to the first floor.
It is signposted just past
The area is open from
6.00am – 9.00pm for
Children aged up to 9 years
(Height restrictions apply)
There is no charge to use
this facility.
Children will need to wear
Preparing to travel
Quiet Rest Area
There is a rest and
relaxation room near gate
This is space away from the
crowds of other passengers
where you can sit and wait
for your flight.
Please note that is a quiet
No1 Lounge/ Spa
The No1 Lounge is an
independent facility (open to
all passengers) it offers a
quiet place to rest and relax.
There is a time limit on how
long you can stay and a
charge to use the lounge.
Follow the signs for Lounge
F, there are stairs or a lift
which will take you there.
For more details or to make
a booking see our website:
Flight Information
Preparing to travel
Your Flight Information – change to non code share flight
Whatever type of boarding pass you have, you only need
to know where to find 3 important pieces of information to
help you use the information screens and find your
departure gate.
Departure Time
Flight Number
A codeshare agreement is where two or more airlines
share the same flight. This means that each airline
publishes and markets the flight itself. If a flight is
operating on a codeshare, our screens rotate the
information to show multiple flight numbers. The boarding
pass below for instance shows a flight to Helsinki – this is
actually a British Airways flight, advertised under a
codeshare with American Airlines.
You can use this information to
find your departure gate on our
flight information screens. Their
display looks like this:
Flight Information
Find your flight on the
Information Screens
Use the information screens
to find out where your flight
will depart from
Preparing to travel
Follow the signs to find
your departure gate
Confirm you are at
the correct gate
What you can expect
to know and when
2 hours
or more
At this time any information
about which gate your flight may
depart from could change. You
are most likely to see the GATE
SHOWN message for your flight.
By this time you should have a
specific gate number. You are
most likely to see the GO TO
GATE message of your flight.
You should have a specific gate
number by this time and be at,
or on your way to your departure
gate. You are most likely to see
a BOARDING message.
Listed below are some of the
messages you may see on the
information screen and the actions you
will need to take.
GATE SHOWN Your gate number is not
yet known. Check the screen at the time
given and your gate number should be
shown at that time.
BOARDING Your flight is close to departing
– go to the gate number which is shown in
FLIGHT CLOSING Your flight is very close
to departing – go immediately to the gate
number which is shown.
Some gates are
quite a long walk.
Make sure you
leave enough time
to get there.
Some flights have multiple
flight numbers and therefore
you will see this information
scroll. This does not mean
your flight number has
changed or that you are flying
on a different airline.
flight has been or is likely to be delayed.
You should seek further information from
your airline or ask for help.
Electric Buggies
are used to help
passengers who
can’t walk very far.
They make a
beeping noise so
you know they are
Download ‘Heathrow Airport
Guide’ from your app store and
store your personal flight
details. The app will then
provide you with regular status
updates on your flight including
latest departure time and call to
gate information.
Boarding the Aircraft
Preparing to travel
All of the Departure Gates have clear
signs to help you confirm that you are
in the right place.
If you are in the right place then there
should be an airline representative at the
desk and the screen should show your
flight number.
If the screen at the Gate does not show
your flight you might be in the wrong
place. You should check the Flight
Information screens to make sure you
have the correct gate or ask for help at
the Airline Customer Service desk.
The airline
will make the
telling you that
they are ready
to board the
aircraft and will
ask passengers
seated in certain rows to come forward
to the desk to start boarding.
Once you have confirmed that you are at
the right location you should take a seat
and wait for further instructions.
Your boarding pass and passport will be
checked .
You should use this time to get your
passport and boarding pass out (as you
will need to show these documents). You
should also check your boarding pass to
find where you will be seated as many
airlines will ask passengers to board the
aircraft by seat row order. Your seat
number is shown on your boarding pass.
The number tells you which row and the
letter is the specific seat number. For
When the checks
are complete you
will be allowed to
past the desk to
walk down the air
bridge (pictured above) and on to the
aircraft where you will be met by the
airline cabin crew who will help you find
your seat and give you instructions on
where to put your bags.
Row 18
Seat F
If you think you might struggle with this part of the journey. please speak to the airline representative when
you arrive at the gate as many will allow passengers with Autism to pre-board (get on the aircraft first.)
Useful Links
Heathrow Website
Heathrow Express
Transport for London
National Express
Civil Aviation Authority
VAT Refunds
The National Autistic Society
Additional information
I know how to find my way around Heathrow
Preparation checklist
I still have questions about
I have a plan to avoid sensory overload
I can use the step-by-step journey guide to help me prepare
I know what to do at each stage of my journey
I know how to read my boarding pass
I know how to use the flight information screens
I know where to ask for help on the day if I need
Contact us
If you have any further questions or concerns please email:
I’m still worried about
Additional information
Gate / Departure gate
Checking in is the process that passengers go through when they arrive at an
airport. At check-in, you tell your airline that you have arrived. The airline gives
you a boarding pass that entitles you to travel through the airport to your aircraft.
At Heathrow you can check in at the airline check-in desks or use the self-service
check-in consoles. Some people check in online before they leave home. If you
have baggage which you need to check in, you will drop it off here.
Boarding pass
A boarding pass is a document that entitles a passenger to a seat on their aircraft.
The ticket you have booked with your airline is digitally transformed into a boarding
pass, allowing you access onto the aircraft. Some passengers pick up their boarding
passes when they check in at the airport. Passengers who check in online usually
print out their boarding passes at home. Some passengers do not print their passes,
but use digital boarding passes on their mobile phones. Every passenger needs a
boarding pass to get through security at Heathrow.
An airline is a commercial organisation that flies passengers by aircraft from one airport to
another. When you book a flight, you book it with an airline. When you pay, your airline gives you
a ticket. Airlines that fly from Heathrow have their own staff and check-in desks at the airport.
Additional information
Information screens
Information screens provide up-to-date information on all flights from Heathrow.
There are information screens in every part of the airport so you can check on your
flight whenever you want. Look on the screen for your flight number. When it's time
to make your way to the departure gate, the screen will show you the gate number
for your flight and the time for boarding your aircraft.
Body Scanner
A body scanner is a tool that security officers use to check passengers for items
that could be dangerous on an aircraft. The scanner is a cubicle with glass sides.
It looks a bit like a round telephone box. If you are asked to step into the scanner,
someone will show you where to go. Inside you will see signs that show you
where to stand. The process is quick. A scan takes less than 30 seconds. Nothing
will touch you. The scanner is a good way to avoid a more intrusive search.
However, if the scanner detects anything unusual, someone will still have to
search the area of your body identified by the scanner.
Archway Metal Detector
An archway metal detector is another tool that security officers use to check that
passengers do not have any forbidden items on them (such as sharp, metal items).
The archway is a bit like a door frame and there is plenty of space for you to walk
through it. If it beeps, you will have to be searched by a security officer. They will
always ask your permission before touching you, and have been trained to be as
non-intrusive as possible, whilst keeping our airport safe. All passengers have to
pass through the Archway Metal Detector, except for those who are physically
unable, who will have a body search by an officer.
Additional information
An airbridge or a jetty is a moveable bridge which is placed against an aircraft door to allow
passengers to board or disembark. They are covered passageways which connect the terminal
building to the aircraft. They are sometimes quite narrow and do not have any windows. If your
aircraft is not parked at a gate with an airbridge, you will be taken by bus to your plane.
Gate/Departure Gate
Gate and departure gate are two names for the same thing. The gate for your
flight is the part of the airport terminal where you board your aircraft. Every
gate has its own reference code.
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