A few weeks ago, Sebastian wrote here about a new “micro” type hotel concept at Dubai airport. I had the chance to try a similar concept that’s been around for a bit longer at London’s Heathrow airport last week , the Yotel.
The Yotel brand is somewhat unique in itself, as it has 5 locations in total, but 4 of these are similar limited service airport locations in London (LHR and LGW), Amsterdam, and Paris, and the fifth is a full service larger hotel near Times Square in NYC.
The Yotel first opened at LHR in 2007, located on the mezzanine level of Terminal 4 (same terminal where the Hilton LHR is located).
I was arriving into Heathrow around 7am after a 7 hour transatlantic flight in economy class and I wanted a place to nap for a few hours (as most hotel check-in times are around 2-3pm). I searched online and although there were many hotels around the Heathrow area that offered day rates (usually at least £50 and above) , the best deal I could find was at the Yotel, which offered hourly stays with a minimum of 4 hours for a total of £36 (about $45 USD). So I figured I’d give it a try. The Hilton at T4 by comparison offers day rates to rent rooms there from 9am to 6pm at a rate of £108.
The Booking Process
Although you can book the Yotel LHR for nightly stays on regular online travel booking sites, if you want to book it hourly instead of nightly, you have to either call or book directly on their website www.yotel.com. Most OTAs do not even give you the option of searching for same day arrival and departure hotel bookings.
The booking process is pretty simple. They only have 2 room types, standard and premium (32 rooms total). The names themselves are a bit misleading; about the only difference is the size. Two people would be quite cramped in a standard room; the premium ones are a bit larger. I booked a standard cabin as I was traveling on my own. When you make the booking, if you have a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club or Air France/KLM Flying Blue account you can earn miles for your stay:
I earned a whopping 100 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for my 4 hour stay!
You can see on the booking confirmation that they do allow cancellations if they are made at least 24 hours before your stay (less credit card surcharge). The hotel didn’t look too full when I was there, but it was also Thanksgiving weekend in the US and not that many eastbound travelers flying in that morning. I booked to arrive about 2 hours after my scheduled flight arrival time to account for any delays, and because I also wanted to check out the AA arrivals lounge in T3 when I got in (stay tuned for more info on that). I asked at the front desk and they said they are flexible on modifying the times of the stay for delayed flights as long as they have the space available. It is also interesting to note that when you go to pay, the options include VISA Credit, VISA Debit, Mastercard Credit, Mastercard Debit, etc. The “Credit” options require a £3 surcharge. If you have a credit card issued outside the UK, however, you may be better off choosing the “Debit” option, and it still may go through without the £3 surcharge.
Getting to LHR Terminal 4
My flight arrived at LHR Terminal 3, so to get to T4 from T3, the easiest way is to take the Heathrow Express/Heathrow Connect trains (Heathrow Connect is the service that runs along the same journey as the Heathrow Express between LHR and Paddington but has a couple more stops in between and costs about half the price!). The station for T2/T3 is kinda in between the two terminals, accessible through an underground tunnel. Once you get to the Heathrow Express/Heathrow Connect station, follow signs and board a train for T4. Connections between terminals on the Heathrow Express or Heathrow Connect trains are free of charge and do not require a ticket. Interesting side note: The Heathrow Express trains from London only stop at T2/T3 then continue onto T5. The Heathrow Connect train also stops at T2/T3 but continues onto T4 instead of T5. So if you’re ever traveling from Central London to LHR T4, you may save both money and the hassle of switching trains if you just take the Heathrow Connect service instead of Heathrow Express.
The Yotel Experience
I arrived at the Yotel about 15 minutes before my scheduled reservation, and went to the front desk (“Mission Control” to keep with the spaceship-ish theme for the hotel), but as luck would have it, there was a group of about 8-10 guests that were part of a tour group that just arrived in front of me all renting separate rooms, and most didn’t have a reservation, so the process took quite a while. They have two agents at the front desk but only have one person checking everyone in; the other agent was busy getting guests the advertised “free coffee, tea, hot chocolate” as mentioned on their site. So by the time I got to the desk, it was about 5-10 minutes past my reservation time. I was going to see if I can extend my checkout time as a result, but was kinda too exhausted to argue. 🙂
When I finally got to the front desk, it went very quickly, as I had made the reservation online and prepaid, I only had to pick up the key for the room (I don’t think I even had to swipe my card, they just verified my ID). When I got to my room, I was prepared for it being small… but it was probably even a bit smaller than I expected. Picture the smallest cruise ship cabin you’ve ever been in and decrease that by about 1/3 or more! But the space is used very well. There is a small bed built inside a cube on one end of the room and a toilet and shower on the other side, divided by a half glass wall near the shower and a sorta thin white shower curtain that closes all the way across (so if you do squeeze two people into the room at least the person using the toilet can have some privacy!). There is a remote controlled TV at the foot of the bed; all the light controls are near the bed as well. There is a small shelf with UK and European electrical outlets but if you need more space, there is a small desk and chair that both fold up from the floor.
If you’re hungry or thirsty there is a menu with a decent amount of options that can be ordered and delivered to your room and the prices aren’t too bad compared with hotel room service.
I’d say the Yotel at LHR met my expectations (didn’t exceed but didn’t disappoint). It served its purpose providing me with enough sleep during my stay that I didn’t have to nap again when I got to my hotel in Central London mid-afternoon or so on Friday. If I arrived on another 7am flight in the future, I might consider napping here again for a few hours. However, I am surprised given the volume of early morning arrival flights into Heathrow, that there are not more options such as this at or nearone of the busiest airports in the world.