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"London?s airports" Top 5 Page for this destination Airports Tip by toonsarah

Airports, London: 100 reviews and 93 photos

  Plane at Heathrow Airport
by toonsarah
  • Plane at Heathrow Airport - London
      Plane at Heathrow Airport
    by toonsarah
  • Shuttle to North Terminal, Gatwick - London
      Shuttle to North Terminal, Gatwick
    by toonsarah

If you fly to London you may arrive at any of five airports. Here’s a brief overview of each:

Heathrow Airport is London’s busiest and possibly best known. And by busy, I mean really busy – it is the world's busiest international airport and handles 471,000 air transport movements per year. A new fifth terminal has just opened (to much controversy as environmentalists questioned the need to make the airport even busier, while travellers suffered as baggage handling systems broke down under the extra strain). If you land here you have several options for reaching the city centre. The cheapest and slowest is the Underground, but I find that as good as any unless you’re in a real hurry. The Piccadilly Line will get you to central London in about an hour and is a pretty reliable service, with trains every few minutes at peak times. A faster though more expensive option is the Heathrow Express, which will take you to Paddington Station in 15 minutes – but bear in mind that depending where you are staying you will probably have to transfer to the Underground network at that point in any case. You could also take the mainline stopping service, Heathrow Connect. Otherwise there are taxis of course, but these are very expensive and with London traffic not necessarily quick.

Gatwick Airport lies to the south of London, and although almost as busy as Heathrow I find it a bit pleasanter to use. It does tend to be dominated by the package holiday and charter flight crowd, but there are only two terminals to navigate, queues seem better managed, and the shopping facilities are good if you find yourself at a loose end. It is apparently the busiest single runway airport in the world, and is the seventh busiest international airport in the world, with 79 airlines serving 227 destinations. The airport’s two terminals, North and South, are linked by a shuttle train, and mainline trains leave for London from a station at the South Terminal. The most expensive of these are the Gatwick Express trains (current charge £16.90 one way). Despite the name, these are only a little quicker than the cheaper stopping services, taking exactly 30 minutes, but do have the advantage of having plenty of room for luggage and a very regular timetable (every 15 minutes). All trains from Gatwick terminate at London’s Victoria Station, from where you can catch the Underground or a bus to various parts of the city.

London City Airport is the only one of London’s airports to be actually situated in the capital itself. It’s a relatively small airport, serving just over 30 European destinations, which makes it a pleasure to use if you get the chance but harder to find a flight to. If you do manage to find one, be warned – the airport’s runway extends into the River Thames, so you may get the uncomfortable sensation that you’re landing on water! Its relatively small size means there are fewer shops than at other airports, but you will find all the facilities you’re likely to need, such as places to eat and drink, buy travel essentials, change money etc. The best way to travel to and from London City is on the Docklands Light Railway, usually known as the DLR. Trains leave the airport every 8 to 15 minutes, with journey times of just 7 minutes to Canning Town, 18 minutes to Canary Wharf and 22 minutes to Bank.

Stansted Airport lies to the north-east of the capital, and is served by many of the low-cost airlines, including Easy Jet and Ryan Air. It has good facilities and a light modern terminal building designed by Norman Foster. The fastest way to reach central London from here is on the Stansted Express. Trains depart every 15-30 minutes, with an average journey time to Liverpool Street Station of 45 minutes. From there you can catch the Underground or a bus to various parts of the city. Alternatively, as with Gatwick, there are cheaper stopping services, but the difference in journey time is a little more marked.

Luton Airport is north of London and is used by charter flights, package tours and some low-cost airlines, e.g. Easy Jet and Monarch. I have to say it is my least favourite of London’s airports and I avoid using it if possible. For one thing, I find it less accessible – there are trains into the city, but to catch these you have first to take a shuttle bus to Luton Airport Parkway station. This service runs every ten minutes between 05:00 and midnight (and also connects with all trains calling at Luton Airport Parkway during the night), but it adds to the journey time and is the last thing you feel like doing after a tiring flight. The alternative is to take the bus into town, but this means driving on the very busy (and consequently often slow) M1. At the time of writing (Spring 2008) the motorway is undergoing extensive road-works in the Luton area and journey times are badly affected.

Mode: TO
Type: Airplane

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated May 10, 2008
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