Sometimes the flight itself is not as bad as the waiting in the airport, the endless queues, or the feared shuttle bus journey between terminals.
Heathrow passengers have not to worry about the last problem any more, as the airport has come out with the slickest of the solutions: laser-guided travel pods that work without drivers or timetables.
The concept may sound like out of a H.G. Wells story, or some invention yet to come - in 2009 they were still featured in an exhibition at London's Science Museum as the future of transport . But the vehicles are already here, perfectly working after being officially unveiled at Heathrow airport on September.
"There's an enormous sense of pride for all the staff who were involved in turning this science-fiction dream into a reality at Heathrow and demonstrating the best of British innovation," said Fraser Brown, the managing director of ULTRa, the company that has developed the project alongside BAA.
According to them, the 30 million pound development could transport up to 500,000 passengers each year and replace 50,000 shuttle bus journeys.
The pod system - which started as a Bristol University project and has been on trial for a year - consists of 21 low energy, battery powered, zero emission vehicles capable of carrying four passengers and their luggage 3.8km between the Terminal 5 Business Car Park and the main terminal.
The airport says you won't have to wait to get one of them, as there are no timetables and a central computer ensures that pods are distributed at each station according to passenger demand. When waiting for a passenger, the pods recharge themselves at battery points, so they are always ready to carry you.
At using the pods Heathrow promises privacy, comfort and a semi silent ride non-stop from start to destination at the touch of a computer screen.
The airport authority also highlights the ecological side of the project. They claim that the pods use 70 per cent less energy than it takes to power a car, and 50% less than a bus, reducing the overall environmental impact of the airport's operation.
So next time you go to Heathrow and see those little white egg-shaped cars waiting for you, go ahead and enjoy the future: is already here.
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17 October 2011, 11:54AM
Quiet and comfortable were my first impressions of the five-minute ride between the terminal and parking lot. Onboard, the only sound over the familiar whirr of the electric motor was the recorded voice announcement from the iPad-like control panel inside the car, assuring me that I was "almost there."
Harry Styles, London
20 December 2012, 01:48PM
they are really comftable and me n the booys enjoy travelling on them :)
A futuristic view of a see-through aircraft cabin where passengers will get a get a 'window on the world'
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