The yotel

London, February 24
We lucked out. For all the weather-caused travel delays other folks have endured over the past few months, we arrived in both Chicago and London within 5 minutes of the scheduled times. Our flight to Joburg also was on time,,, and less than half full. That allowed me to snag a row of four middle seats for myself, something I haven’t accomplished in years. And our Yotel stay in Heathrow was an unqualified success.

I no longer remember where I first heard about the Yotel, somewhere online. It supposedly was started by a fellow so dazzled by his experience in a British Airways first-class sleeper cabin that he wanted to extend its pleasures to the masses, providing a comfortable respite in a small space, rentable for anywhere from 4 hours on. So he created in-airport hotels that were designed by the same folks who designed those first-class sleepers. One is located in Heathrow’s Terminal 4. I made my reservation as soon as I could (six months ago).

Steve and I once spent a night in a microhotel in Tokyo, and this was way more convenient. An hour and a half after touching down at 6:40 a.m., after going through immigration and getting our boarding passes for the next (8 p.m.) flight and making the long journey (by underground train) from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4, we were escorted to our “cabin” in the Yotel. The fixtures and lighting of the lobby are a bit dim and 21st Century (think Blade Runner, but chic), but the corridor and cabins recalled nothing so much as a train and sleeper cars, only without the clatter and motion. Within minutes we were snuggled into our bunks. Everything was spotless, the beds firms and linens first-class, the pillows abundant, the lighting intelligent, the design taking advantage of every inch of space.

The one thing that made us raise our eyebrows was the separation between the bed/study part of the room and the toilet/shower area — just a clear glass (presumably waterproof) slidihg door. For privacy, you could pull across a curtain — but it was about 3 feet short of screening what most of us would prefer not to display. Fortunately, public toilets right next door gave us a more private option.

If we’d had time we could have watched TV on the flat-screen panel or bathed under the rainshower or ordered room service. But after napping for about 5 hours and charging our laptops, all we could do was spend a little time on the (free wifi) Internet, eat a bit of breakfast at the nearby cafe, and get cleaned up a bit. Then it was time to check out. Still as we made the journey from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5, we pitied all the poor folks who’d spent hours suffering the indignities of Heathrow’s public waiting rooms. Would that every major transit airport had a Yotel!

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