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Does your holiday begin at the airport?

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Julian Worricker Julian Worricker | 16:20 PM, Thursday, 21 April 2011

Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5A, airside, departure lounge

On the day that Heathrow Terminal 5 opened, I landed at Heathrow Terminal 4. I was on a flight from Bangkok, and remember how quiet the terminal seemed and how smooth it was to get from plane to baggage hall to main concourse. It was only when I got into a taxi that my attention was drawn to events nearby. "Terminal Four seems very quiet today," I remarked to the driver. "Yes," he said, "but you should see the chaos that's going on just around the corner".

No-one currently working at Terminal 5 denies that the first few weeks were shambolic. But on a visit there this week to record material for our Easter Monday programme it was hard to find anyone with a bad word to say for the place. Even when I interrupted passengers in the middle of their meals they remained good-humoured. Two Australian women liked it, so did a family heading off to the United States, and so did a regular British business traveller.

Of course we were there on one of those days when everything was running smoothly. The airport was busy, but not too busy. Flights were landing and taking off on time. The queues at security were manageable. Lessons have been learned, I was told, after last year's Icelandic ash cloud debacle so that airports are better prepared for the bad days as well as the good ones.

But how typical is Terminal 5? Part of the reason for going there was to assess whether people can regard the holiday as starting at check-in or when the plane lands at its final destination. As travel writer, Alison Rice, says during the programme...Terminal 5 is one thing, Gatwick on a busy Saturday afternoon is quite another. You can hear an interview with Emma Gilthorpe, director of regulation at Heathrow, on Easter Monday's programme.

We'll also run a series of what we're calling 'hidden gems'...places in the UK, picked by celebrities, that are way off the usual tourist trail. What makes these places special as far as our guests are concerned? And by all means tell us about some 'hidden gems' of your own. Add them to this blog, and see how they compare with the choices of our celebrity guests.

Julian Worricker presents You and Yours on BBC Radio 4

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