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More people flew through Heathrow in 2010 than the total number of people living in England.
In a country where Heathrow-bashing is a national sport, the airport’s achievements have tended to slip under the radar. The coming year, however, offers it a chance to show off its strengths to
the world. Almost 80% of Olympic passengers will fly through the airport, and that means some serious numbers in a short space of time: 50,000 athletes and members of the ‘Olympic family’, plus
40,000 journalists and 500,000 spectators, on top of regular summer traffic.
Cynics will point to the lack of a third runway, the 4,000 flight cancellations when it snowed last winter and the, erm, hiccups surrounding the opening of T5 in 2008. But T5 has proven to be an unqualified success since then, and the new T5C extension, which opened in June, has improved it further.
A new T2 is in the works, replacing its 60-year-old predecessor by 2013 (and, by 2019, T1 as well). The space-age Personal Rapid Transportation pods, linking the T5 business car park to the terminal, are working well. And owner BAA has pledged £50m to avoid another ‘big freeze’ fiasco.
The airport already copes with at least 20 million more passengers than it was designed to serve – it operates at 98% capacity, with a cap of 480,000 flights a year – and its popularity in that respect is arguably worth celebrating. Numerous international firms have their HQs nearby and as a result, event spaces are always in demand. So let’s take a look at the venues in the vicinity, from airport hotels through to grand country houses, and a whole host of other options too.
THE AIRPORT HOTELS
There are plenty of good options for meetings and events in Heathrow’s cluster of airport hotels – and some depressing ones, too…
While it’s rare for people to think warmly of airport hotels, the 20 or so that serve Heathrow do include some strong options for event and meeting planners. Standout spaces include the Atrium and Newbury 1 at the Radisson Edwardian, the Sky Garden at the Sheraton Skyline and just about anywhere at the still-shiny Sofitel (part of the T5 building). A new Hilton, which opened this September, adds to the fun. You’ll find most of the hotels on or near Bath Road, to the north of the airport and parallel to the M4. T4 is to the south, so if a good proportion of delegates are flying in here, consider Egham, Staines or Shepperton. Try to grab metered black cabs rather than minicabs, which can be extortionate (£16 for the six-minute journey from the Radisson Edwardian to T5, anyone?) – and remember the Heathrow Hoppa (£4.50) can take an interminably long time.
Hilton London Heathrow Airport
The big news at Heathrow is the opening of the brand-new Hilton, just across the M25 from T5. Despite the name, there’s no foot access to the terminal, but the taxi ride takes just a few minutes. It’s been designed with conferences very much in mind and has one of the UK’s largest event spaces, which can easily accommodate 1,000 guests. The food should be well up to scratch – chef Cyrus Todiwala of Café Spice Namasté fame is behind one of the restaurants, Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen. R&R options include a luxury spa and 13 acres of landscaped grounds. Get in while it’s still gleaming!
Poyle Road, Colnbrook, SL3 0FF, tel: 01753 686860, squaremeal.co.uk/hiltonT5, BR:350 FR:13 M:1,170 D:800 R:1,000 P:450
Arora Park Hotel Heathrow
Arora Park, which also has a sibling in Bath Road (tel: 020 8759 7777) is 10 minutes’ drive from T1-3, and has a single meeting room for up to 30, with natural light.
Old Bath Road, Colnbrook, Berkshire, SL3 0PH, tel: 01753 681555, BR:119 FR:1 M:30 D:62 R:120 P:50
Comfort Hotel Heathrow
Dated and in need of a lick of paint, but its four function rooms offer good value.
Shepiston Lane, Hayes, Middlesex UB3 1LP, tel: 020 8573 6162, BR:184 FR:4 M:150 D:150 R:200 P:125
Crowne Plaza London Heathrow
A typical airport hotel with sound conferencing facilities and an Irish pub, Begorrah.
Stockley Road, West Drayton, UB7 9NA, tel: 0871 942 9140, BR:465 FR:11 M:200 D:160 R:160 P:800
Hilton London Heathrow Airport
The only hotel with direct access to T4 via a covered walkway, and a free bus to T5, to boot. There’s a plethora of meeting options for up to 300.
Terminal 4, Heathrow Airport, TW6 3AF, tel: 020 8759 7755, BR:398 FR:30 M:300 D:200 R:250 P:230
Holiday Inn Heathrow Ariel
A modern hotel on Bath Road, well suited to meetings for up to 50.
118 Bath Road, UB3 5AJ , tel: 0871 942 9040, BR:184 FR:6 M:50 D:120 R:150 P:89
Holiday Inn Heathrow M4, Jct 4
The uninspiring name sets the tone, but at least leaves you in no doubt as to the location. A solid choice for meetings of up to 130.
Sipson Road, UB7 0JU, tel: 0871 942 9095, BR:617 FR:15 M:130 D:120 R:150 P:450
Holiday Inn London Heathrow
Triple-glazed windows will ensure your delegates get a good night’s sleep.
Bath Road, Sipson Way, UB7 0DP, tel: 020 8990 0000, BR:230 FR:11 M:130 D:80 R:100 P:100
Jurys Inn Heathrow
A great location right by Hatton Cross tube, so getting to and from the airport’s an inexpensive doddle. Light, bright and modern, too.
East Perimeter Road, Hatton Cross, TW6 2SQ, tel: 020 8266 4664, BR:364 FR:10 M:60 D:35 R:55 P:120
Marriott London Heathrow
Still shiny and new, and with an indoor pool for your delegates to splash around in. Has to be on any event planner’s Heathrow shortlist.
Bath Road, UB3 5AN, tel: 020 8990 1100, BR:393 FR:15 M:480 D:380 R:480 P:280
Novotel London Heathrow Airport
A reliable choice just north of the M4, but still on the Hoppa route, with 11 meeting rooms and an indoor pool.
Cherry Lane, UB7 9HB, tel: 01895 431431, BR:178 FR:11 M:250 D:200 R:250 P:150
Park Inn Heathrow
Bright, modern, and one of the closest hotels to T1-3. Definitely one to check out, especially for larger conferences and events.
Bath Road, UB7 0DU, tel: 020 8759 6611, BR:895 FR:41 M:700 D:650 R:800 P:650
Premier Inn Heathrow Airport
Excellent value, as you’d expect, and meeting facilities for up to 150. You get what you pay for.
15 Bath Road, TW6 2AB, tel: 0871 527 8508, BR:590 FR:18 M:150 D:330 R:100 P:270 >>
Radisson Edwardian Heathrow
One of the stars of Heathrow’s hotel scene. The standout spaces are the Atrium and Newbury 1, but there are plenty of other options too, for up to 700.
140 Bath Road, UB3 5AW, tel: 020 8759 6311, BR:459 FR:27 M:700 D:550 R:700 P:700
Ramada London Heathrow
Another new-build on Bath Road, suited to events for up to 60. Well worth checking out.
745 Bath Road, TW5 9QE, tel: 0844 815 9041, BR:200 FR:5 M:70 D:60 R:90 P:74
Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel
A good location on Bath Road, and plenty of meeting and event options, but a little tired.
Bath Road, TW6 2AQ, tel: 020 8897 6363, BR:649 FR:28 M:500 D:360 R:360 P:649
Sheraton Heathrow Hotel
Slightly shabby and unloved – definitely an ‘airport hotel’. Wi-Fi in guest rooms is an outrageous £15 per day. Ouch.
Colnbrook Bypass, West Drayton, UB7 0HJ, tel: 020 8759 2424, BR:426 FR:21 M:200 D:150 R:200 P:236
Sheraton Skyline Hotel London Heathrow
This is the Sheraton to book. The Sky Garden, with indoor pool and bar, is a great call for cocktail receptions for up to 600.
Bath Road, UB3 5BP, tel: 020 8759 2535, BR:350 FR:18 M:500 D:350 R:600 P:350
Has a claim to be Heathrow’s best hotel. Accessed via a walkway from T5, with a plethora of spaces including a chef’s table and private dining room. Go see.
Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport, TW6 2GD, tel: 020 8757 7788, BR:605 FR:45 M:1,300 D:1,000 R:2,000 P: 400
St Giles Hotel London Heathrow
Close to T4 and right by Feltham train station, so easy (and cheap) to access from London. Meeting spaces are solid but uninspiring.
Hounslow Road, Middlesex, TW14 9AD, tel: 020 8817 7117, BR:303 FR:10 M:120 D:90 R:150 P:120
Heathrow’s oldest hotel reopened after a major refurbishment in 2010. It’s still privately owned and is an excellent choice for smaller meetings and parties.
171 Town Lane, Stanwell, Staines, Middlesex, TW19 7PW, tel: 01784 252292, BR:52 FR:2 M:50 D:80 R:80 P:45
Thistle London Heathrow
Reasonable meeting and event spaces but overall in need of a refurb. Bedrooms are pokey, too.
Bath Road, UB7 0EQ, tel: 0871 376 9021, BR:264 FR:13 M:700 D:540 R:900 P:600
Key to abbreviations
BR: Number of bedrooms
FR: Number of function rooms
M: Maximum meeting capacity
D: Maximum dining capacity
R: Maximum reception capacity
P: Number of on-site parking spaces
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events Autumn 2011.