Home Airports How To Skip The Lines At U.K. Airports

How To Skip The Lines At U.K. Airports

by SharonKurheg

Both Joe and I are from the U.S. Although we’ll cover travel topics that are of international interest at times, most of the stuff we write about is pretty U.S.-centric. With that, not surprisingly, the vast majority of our readers are from the U.S., as well (except when you write about all the problems with a new airport in Mexico, and then you get trolls from Mexico up the ying yang).

That being said, there is plenty that travelers from the U.S. can learn about airports, hotels, etc. that are outside our borders. For example, did you know there’s a way to skip the security lines at several airports in the UK?

The U.S., of course, has TSA Pre-Check and CLEAR as options to “skip the security line.” TSA Pre-Check requires governmental screening to give you 5-year access, while CLEAR charges an annual amount to give you near-instant access to the TSA officer at either the Pre-Check or regular queue (whichever you’re eligible for).

The United Kingdom doesn’t have Pre-Check (a U.S.-government entity, so duh!) or CLEAR (a U.S.-based company that hasn’t gone international yet). However they DO have a program called Fast Track at their larger airports. If you buy a fast track security pass, you get to enter a priority lane to skip the queues at the security screening checkpoint.

Sometimes you don’t even have to buy the fast track pass – if you’re flying business or first class, your airline may automatically include that as a perk (that’s the only way to use the service at London Heathrow right now. Blame COVID). But for the rest of us back in coach,  we have to buy our fast track passes. 😉

Some airports give discounts for buying fast track passes in advance, others don’t. Then again, some airports only allow you to buy them in advance.

Here are the costs for some of the U.K.’s busiest airports. Heads up that the cost is per person, and a fast track pass can only be used once:

Airport Program Name Cost Per Person Child Exemptions
Belfast International (BFS) Fast Track  Security Advance: £4
Airport: £4
Under 2 are free
Birmingham (BHX) Express Lane Security Advance: £4
Airport: £5
Under 5 are free
Bristol (BRS) Fast Track Security Advance: £4.95
Airport: £6
n/a
East Midlands (EMA) FastTrack Security Advance: £5
Airport: £5
Under 5 are free
Edinburgh (EDI) FastTRACK Security Advance: £6
Airport: £6
n/a
Glasgow (GLA) Priority Security Advance: £5.99
Airport: n/a
n/a
London Gatwick (LGW) Premium Security Advance: £5
Airport: £6
Under 12 are free
London Heathrow (LHR) Fast Track Departures Advance: by invitation only
Airport: by invitation only
n/a
London Luton (LTN) Fast Track Security Advance: £5
Airport: £6
Under 2 are free
London Stansted (STN) FastTrack Security Advance: £7
Airport: £7
n/a
Manchester (MAN) FastTrack Security Advance: £4
Airport: £5
n/a

Caveats

There are a few things to keep in mind when buying Fast Track passes:

  • If you buy your tickets for it ahead of time, you won’t know what the wait for the airport security line will be until you get there (that problem is relieved at the airports where you can buy them on site). You may buy your fast track pass ahead of time and not save any time at all.
  • If you buy your ticket ahead of time, it may or may not be refundable or changeable – check with your airport.
  • Not all airports offer fast track 24/7. If your flight is particularly early or late in the day, check with your airport to see what times the fast track queues are open.
  • Important for parents! Some airports won’t allow you to go through the fast track lane if you have a stroller or are carrying a car seat. Manchester and London Stansted specify this. Check with your airport for specifics.

Is Fast Track worth it?

It depends. Remember what we once said about judging how much things are “worth it.”

If you’re flying out of London Stansted at an off-beat time and there’s only a 3-minute wait, then it’s probably not worth the £35 so your family of 5 can get through “faster” (spoiler: it won’t be any faster).

But if schools are out of session and it’s a weekend and there’s a 60-minute wait because all the security officers except 2 are out with COVID, and it took you longer to get to the airport than you thought it would, and you don’t have all that much time to catch your plane, then yeah, it might be, depending on your particular situation.

So yeah….fast track in the UK may or may not be for you. But at least you now know it’s an option.

Feature Photo: oddharmonic / flickr

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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