Calling the luxury Sofitel Heathrow Hotel at Terminal 5 (T5) an “airport hotel” is just cruel and unjust. For me the term “airport hotel” often conjures up a beige hotel which lacks character, is depressing as an in-transit passenger and makes me want to escape as soon as possible. I’ve not had many great “airport hotel” experiences but at the Sofitel T5, I’m not in a hurry to leave as it’s a comfortable escape from the madness that is Heathrow Airport (LHR).
Convenience and luxury, however, come at a price (a location, location, location kind of price). I’ve stayed at the hotel three times now, once when stranded due to snow and now twice due to early morning flights from T5. My most recent visit was last month as part of my cheap business class ticket, which included an 8 a.m. flight home.
Finding the Sofitel Heathrow Hotel
After you get your bags and exit into the T5 terminal, you need to make a right to walk down to the end of the hallway (stop first to stock up on snacks as the room has an empty refrigerator), walk through the doors as if going to the parking lot to get the lift (there is a small Sofitel sign at the elevator). From the lift, you go up one floor and make a right as you exit.
You can pick up a trolley here (good idea!) as you will walk down the hallway, which seems never to end! The brown paneled hallway with gleaming floors is eye catching as are the rails to prevent dings from trolleys. As the marble floor yields to the carpeted bridge you are closer to arriving on the second floor of the hotel. If you have a luggage trolley, take the lift down otherwise use the escalator to the lobby.
The Front Desk Arrival
On my first visit, I was checking in before dinner last minute due to the flight cancellation and being stranded at Heathrow. I had called from the BA lounge to reserve the room and check-in was quick and easy. As an Accor gold member, at the time, I was given my free drink coupon to use at the bar later.
On my second visit, the front desk experience was horrible. I arrived on the 6:30 a.m. flight and arrived at the hotel about 7:30 a.m. exhausted and craving the SoBed for sleep. This time, I was denied the pleasant early check-in that was afforded the gold member in front of me. Despite my gold status, I was told I would need to wait until 3 p.m. for check-in (this is where I think the hotel has an opportunity to use a rolling 24/7 check-in as the Novotel Bangkok does, also an Accor hotel). I became that guest who sits in the lobby and waits while not falling asleep before deciding to store my bags, jump on the Heathrow Express and explore London for the day.
My recent visit was quick and easy – I arrived after the normal check in time and was greeted and quickly checked-in.
The Lobby and Common Spaces
You are greeted by glass, marble, art and contemporary design in the hotel. Despite having over 600 rooms, three restaurants and over 40 meeting rooms, the hotel has never felt crowded during my visits. The hotel is a few buildings under one which helps with the noise, or lack thereof. With restaurants and bar on the main level, you need to go to either end of the lobby to access the glass elevators to the guest rooms. Your key card is required to operate the lift (and the room electric so get two keys at check-in).
The hotel has open atriums and one main walkway between wings (buildings) on each floor. The tricky part is the H shaped wings on either side. You room might be the first or second turn.
The colors and quiet of the common spaces is a nice change from the often chaos at airport hotels. While it’s usually only an overnight (or dayroom) stay, it’s really quiet in most spaces on all three visits.
The Standard Room
The rooms are a good size. I’ve stayed in a standard room as well as an upgraded room (welcomed with a plate of chocolate during my stranded visit as a Gold member at the time). Each room overlooked the interior of the hotel atrium. The rooms have a flat screen television, free Wi-Fi, ample desk/workstation and the SoBed (a favorite fluffy, hard to leave bed). Despite the many comings and goings of the guests, the room was quiet all day and night thanks to soundproofed windows and excellent room darkening curtains.
When you enter, there are two shelves with coffee making supplies, a wardrobe/closet with safe, iron and extra duvet and my favorite – slippers! The refrigerator is empty save two bottles of complimentary still and sparkling water. A marble landing is great as a luggage rack and there are drawers beneath. On the right, after you put the keycard in the electric slot, you have buttons to operate the room. You will also have the nicely sized bathroom.
The Sofitel brand of Accor is a luxury brand that shows in the bathroom. The walk in shower had strong water pressure and London ESPA toiletries. Plush towels, good lighting and design made the bathroom a definite oasis. Unusual for a standard room at any hotel is the shower and separate tub. Usually a tub is a suite perk but here it is standard. One fault that I have though is the toilet and the fact that I can never quite get the right push button flush (it’s comical and sad at the same time).
Help Me Find the Hairdryer
Knowing that I would need the hairdryer at 4:30 a.m. and most likely not in the mood for hide and seek, I went in search of the hairdryer after dinner. It was a search even for me. I started in the bathroom (wishful thinking), moved to the wardrobe (seemed a good idea), then opened all the drawers before opening the last drawer next to the window in the desk. Found it (sort of). It was in the desk and connected to the desk so it can’t be moved elsewhere (you can call housekeeping for one that is disconnected). While I understand the need, this is annoying.
The morning buffet breakfast at Vivre has a plethora of options and while a bit expensive, it’s worth it to have fresh foods before your flight. You could choose to eat in the airport terminal but you’d miss out on the classic French croissants and pain au chocolate. The restaurant opens at 6 a.m. so I’ve only visited once due to early flights. A past dinner I chose a filet and fresh vegetables with a nice Bordeaux and it was quite tasty. As I equate airport hotels with chicken fingers and frozen burgers it was nice to have healthy choices.
There is a fancy French restaurant, La Belle Époque and Tea 5 which serves afternoon tea, finger sandwiches and French pastries. I’ve not tried either.
Sphere Bar & Lounge
My last visit, I wasn’t in the mood for a full out restaurant meal, I wanted room service food not in my room but in the lobby and luckily found it at the bar. The Sphere bar was quiet during my visit and has a long bar, high top tables, many televisions showing sports and a separate lounge with seating. Service was friendly and quick.
The hotel has meeting rooms, a 24/7 gym, a spa with pool, a concierge and all the other amenities you’d expect from a five star hotel. There is also a Perrier-Jouet Champagne bar which was tempting.
Day Trip London
If you want to go into London, it’s really easy on the Heathrow Express which gets you to Paddington in fifteen minutes or you can take the tube (underground) for much less but a longer journey (about an hour).
Overall – The Sofitel Heathrow Hotel at T5
Location, location, location! It’s all about proximity to Terminal 5 and for that absolute convenience you will pay more. How much more depends on when you book and if you are an Accor loyalty member (members get 5% discount online). For my past stay, I mulled the Sofitel vs. a Sheraton off airport, the difference was $50 and a shuttle bus schedule. So what’s your time worth? For me, the Sofitel Heathrow Hotel T5 is worth the extra cost for convenience and luxury…..just don’t get there too early unless you’ve booked a day room! My rate was £135 (slightly over $200) for a Friday night November stay.