When taking a flight from London Heathrow Terminal 3, all passengers are required to walk straight through the middle of the duty free shopping area in order to get to their gates. This is unlike at other terminals at Heathrow (which make you walk along the outside of, not straight through, the duty free area).

The duty free area consists of strong smells, flashing lights, and various other things (such as visual information overload) that can present accessibility problems to passengers who are sensitive to these things (photosensitive epilepsy, autism spectrum, etc.). I'm mildly sensitive to these things, and I'm traveling with someone who is way more so.

Is there a way to skip past the duty free shopping area and walk straight to the central area once one's cleared security? I did some research and found that Birmingham Airport allows passengers who request it at the assistance desk prior to security can have a handler escort them through a special corridor that bypasses it, but is the same available at Heathrow Terminal 3?

Update: I called Heathrow and they told me I can request this at the Assistance desk at check-in. They recommend pre-booking assistance through the airline and mentioning it in the notes, but they will also accommodate someone day-of so long as they request it at the assistance desk prior to security. Whether this works is yet to be seen, so I'm not posting a self-answer yet.

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    Good question. You might contact Heathrow Assistance to ask directly; several contact methods (at "Contact Us" in the middle of the above page) are supported. Jun 27, 2022 at 22:53
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    And if you get an answer from Heathrow, please post what worked as an answer.
    – Damila
    Jun 27, 2022 at 23:42
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    Strong smells: The pandemic has taught me that good, properly fit respirators remove whatever it is about those smells that's problematic for me. Now I can walk down the scented candle aisle without problems. I have not encountered a perfume section since learning this but I expect it would not bother me, either. Jun 28, 2022 at 0:25
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    True, which is why I made it a comment rather than an answer--it only addresses one of the three problems you listed. Jun 28, 2022 at 0:29
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    @Damila Edited the question with Heathrow's call center's response. I'm not self-answering yet as I still need to try it for myself before I have a firm answer.
    – gparyani
    Jun 28, 2022 at 8:40

1 Answer 1


Sadly, the answer appears to be no, if you're starting your journey at Heathrow Terminal 3.

When I got to Heathrow Terminal 3's pre-security assistance desk, they told me that the airport was not built with a way for normal economy passengers to access the gates without going through duty free, short of having access to the premium cabin/elite passenger security checkpoints.

When I pressed on the subject, they said the best they can do is provide a handler to walk with the person through the shop and guide them through it so they can go through it blind.

On the other hand, if you're connecting in Terminal 3, there is a way to avoid a mandatory shopping area. Once you've completed security, simply follow the sign for "Express Connection": the sign says it's only for passengers on a specific list of flights departing within 60 minutes, but anyone can use that path. This will take you past even the central waiting area to the gates, but you can walk back there if you have time to spare.

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    Ask on law SE whether you have a case against Heathrow under the Equality Act 2010. I wouldn't be surprised at a "yes". This is absolutely unacceptable.
    – user4188
    Jul 19, 2022 at 7:59
  • @chx Which specific provision would be violated?
    – gparyani
    Jul 19, 2022 at 8:10
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    legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/20 "The first requirement is a requirement, where a provision, criterion or practice of A's puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage." ... providing a reasonable means of avoiding it.
    – user4188
    Jul 19, 2022 at 8:22
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    @chx Asked there: law.stackexchange.com/q/82491/18779
    – gparyani
    Jul 25, 2022 at 12:31

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