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Horrible Inn Heathrow Airport
Holiday Inn Heathrow Airport (London)
Member Name: collingwood21
Holiday Inn Heathrow Airport (London)
Date: 22/05/09, updated on 15/03/10 (141 review reads)
Advantages: Good location for the airport, Good value parking packages, Secure car park
Disadvantages: Unprofessional and unhelpful staff, First room had hole in bathroom door, Poor lifts
The Holiday Inn Heathrow is not, as you may well have guessed from the name, the sort of place you exactly go to for a holiday. However much their website tries to sell the hotel as a great place to dine or a good base for a family holiday in London, it is ultimately an unexciting airport hotel and the people who stay there are travellers needing a base close to Heathrow airport who don't really mind that it is unexciting. I stayed there with Other Half in March 2009 to cope with transatlantic flights; we stayed once the night before going on holiday because we were due to fly at an uncivilised hour in the morning, and once upon our return to Heathrow because arriving late in the evening after travelling for over 24 hours in economy class does not leave you in the safest position for driving straight home along a busy motorway.
We chose this hotel out of the dozens that encircle the airport because a special offer it was advertising outweighed my reservations about the Holiday Inn brand (brought on by a previously unpleasant experience in South Wales, which I shall not bore you with here). The offer in question was a "Stay, Park and Fly" package that gave us one night's weekend accommodation and 15 days parking for our car in their underground car park for £129 (it would have been £179 had we stayed on a midweek night). As we had to return to the hotel to collect our car on the day we arrived back at Heathrow anyway - and it was within the 15 day limit so we didn't need to pay any further parking charges - it made sense for us to book our second night of accommodation there as well. This second night's stay cost us around £80, so you can see straight away that the parking charge for the was less than £50 for a 15 day stay (compared to £15.10 per day for official BAA parking and £6.99 per day for Economy Airport Parking, the cheapest alternative we could find - incidentally, to use the train would have cost more as it would have been £86 each return, and we would still have needed to stay somewhere on both nights as well). This therefore seemed like a good value way to sort out travelling to and staying at the airport, and we duly booked with them about a month before we were to stay there.
Arrival and Check-In
This hotel is one of three Holiday Inns nears near to Heathrow, and was also the cheapest. It is located on Sipson Way, near the A4 Bath Road, just a few minutes' drives from the main terminal buildings and is therefore very convenient for airport passengers, if not for the drivers who are trying to find the place (although we found the other two in the area with no problems at all). Even with a sat nav and directions from one of the other Holiday Inns, we found we had to drive around in circles, seeing where we wanted to get to and just not being able to actually get there due to a cunningly designed one-way system. Having eventually gained access to the (correct) Holiday Inn, it turned out that the car park had both ordinary outdoor spaces and a secure underground section beneath the hotel that is accessed via a ticket machine and barrier system, as at multi-storey car parks. The secure car park is a narrow one-way affair and the spaces were not exactly generous in size; this is not a huge problem when you drive a Clio, but I wouldn't like to try to park anything much bigger there! To keep it secure, the underground car park can only be exited if you go to reception and get a valid exit ticket, and it is equipped with CCTV cameras and good lighting. It was hardly a glamorous affair, but I felt content that my car would be safe left there.
Upstairs, the reception area was large, clean and well-presented; it looked like a professional, smart business hotel, and had an open-plan dining and bar area next to the reception desk. As we stayed two separate nights at this hotel we went through their check-in procedures twice, but despite the promising appearance of the place, remained thoroughly unimpressed by it on both occasions. On the first occasion we were studiously ignored by a member of reception staff who wasn't serving anyone; on the second a businessman was served before us despite us being the first at the desk. On both occasions the member of staff that did eventually serve us answered a phone call in the middle of checking us in, and neither was especially polite to us. Check-in became a much longer and more unpleasant task than it really needed to be. Another thing that bothered us about the hotel was the arrangement of the lifts. Not only were they un-signposted, but try as we might we could not go from the car parking level to the reception level via a lift - odd given this is surely the route that most luggage is carried over. We ended up lugging our things up and down stairs on both occasions, and met other thoroughly confused guests just as fed up with the weird and unsatisfactory layout of the place as we did so.
The rooms weren't that easy to find, as the numbering seemed a little random and signposting was as good as it had been for the lifts. We stayed in two different rooms on two different floors, each of which was small and conservatively furnished, but which provided all you would reasonably need for an overnight stay. The windows were double--glazed and supposedly designed to keep out the noise of the aircraft (certainly it wasn't nearly as noisy as I thought it might be, I barely noticed it in the end) and the double beds were both sufficiently comfortable for us, so we managed to get a decent night's sleep each time. We were also provided with the standard things you might expect from a hotel of this sort: a table, tea and coffee making facilities, wardrobe, phone, hairdryer, TV, extra pillows, towels and non-stealable toiletries (i.e. a bottle of bodywash that doubled for soap and shampoo bolted to the wall of the bathroom). The second room was clean, neat and quite new looking, but the first was a little shabby in places, and rather worryingly had a large hole in the bathroom door where someone had clearly tried to kick it in! All in all, there was nothing to get too excited about, but they were perfectly fine for staying for one or two nights in. As a note, the hotel seemed to offer ice machines on every floor, but I never managed to find one that worked; the niche where it should have been near to my first room was empty, and I simply never located it near my second room. It's not like I desperately needed ice either time, it was just annoying for the hotel to list them as a facility then make it so hard for you to actually access one.
There were also a number of other services the hotel offered that we did not use during our stay:
- Wireless internet
- In-house movies
- Mini gym
- Business centre
- Laundry and dry cleaning services
- Babysitting services
Breakfast and Check-Out
Due to the aforementioned early flight after our first night's stay, we did not get to experience the wonders of the Holiday Inn breakfast, as we left well before they started serving it. Check-out on that occasion was thankfully quick and easy, and we had no problems finding the departure point for the "Hoppabus" shuttle service* that links the hotel with terminals 1, 2 and 3 (£4 per person each way).
On the second occasion, we had an entirely different experience. When we checked in for our second stay, the receptionist had tried to sell us discounted breakfast vouchers; we could still buy breakfast in the morning she said, but it would cost us £17 each rather than the £9 we would pay if we bought the vouchers then and there. Although rather weary at this point, I clearly remember asking her if the room rate we had paid already included breakfast, as we were both under the distinct impression that it did. At this point she nodded, took back the vouchers she had been pressurising us into buying and left us wondering why she had tried to charge us twice for breakfast. Come the morning, jet lag had us up early and waiting in the reception area for breakfast to start being served. Once the dining area opened, we found to our dismay that they wanted £17 each** and that the receptionist had rather mislead us over the whole situation, leaving us believing we had a paid-for breakfast waiting for us. With the words "unprofessional" and "rip-off" dancing in our heads, we refused to pay this much and went instead to pack up and check out instead. We checked ourselves out without too much trouble, but then the receptionist started trying to charge us for the car parking we had already paid for. It took a great deal of arguing, showing of paperwork and explaining that we were staying for a second night after the "Stay, Park and Fly" package to persuade him that we owed nothing on this account, and spent the next couple of days worrying we had been charged twice for our parking (thankfully not in the end). So I am unable to comment on breakfast here, alas.
Although this hotel does have several things going in its favour - good location for the airport, good "Stay, Park and Fly" offers (which are still being advertised at the time of writing) and secure long stay parking - it brought back to mind just why I had reservations about Holiday Inns in the past. The website may promise a "can-do" attitude from it staff, but in my experience here it was more of a "don't want to do" attitude. The staff we encountered were unhelpful, misleading and rude, and in particular provided a memorably poor end to our holiday when we tried to check out for the second and last time. The package was good value for money, but the experience most certainly was not. If I was a bit apprehensive about this chain before, I am downright avoiding them in future as the experience the staff provided will stay with me far longer than the positive points about this hotel.
Holiday Inn Heathrow
London UB7 0DP
Tel: (0)20 8990 0000
Fax: +44 (0)20 8564 7744
* See http://tiny.cc/lOSR5 for further information on the Hoppabus.
** That's even more than you would pay for a Full English, toast and drink at a service station!
Summary: Unless you are a very calm person needing good value airport parking, go elsewhere
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