The five major airports that service London are Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and London City. They all differ in size, location, destinations they service and airlines they work with, and it’s important to know which one works best for you when deciding where to fly to.
Many visitors to the UK may assume Heathrow is the best airport to fly to; that’s to be expected seeing as it’s the main aviation hub for the UK, and is one of the busiest airports in the world, serving more than 75 million passengers each year. However, Gatwick Airport follows hot on Heathrow’s tails, serving more than 40 million passengers a year, while Stansted and Luton are great choices for frequent low-cost flights, and London City is the only airport located in the heart of the city, making it ideal for business travellers. With all airports accessible to London, it pays to shop around and see which airport has the best flight options for your needs.
To help you pick the ideal airport for your trip, here’s the most important information you need to know about three of London’s major airports.
Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Heathrow Airport is consistently placed in the top 10 busiest airports in the world, and is the main international hub for flights to the UK. It is the home of British Airways, but more than 80 airlines fly here, serving more than 200 destinations in 85 countries, which makes it an excellent choice for variety of airlines and destinations. Being located only 24 kilometres from central London, it’s also a convenient airport for most travellers, especially those staying in West London.
Underground (Tube): 40 minutes, £7
The Piccadilly Line connects all Heathrow terminals (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) to central London via a direct service. Services run frequently (every few minutes) between around 5 a.m. and midnight (approximately) Monday to Saturday, and from around 6 a.m. to midnight (approximately) on Sundays and public holidays. All of the airport stations are in Zone 6 (central London is zone 1.)
Train: 20 minutes, £20
The Heathrow Express is the quickest way to travel into central London. Heathrow Express runs from terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5 to Paddington station. Trains depart around every 15 minutes and tickets can be bought on board.
Taxi: 60 minutes, £80
You can usually find a line of black cabs outside each terminal or go to one of the approved taxi desks. The fares are metered, but watch out for extra charges such as late night or weekend journey fees.
Gatwick Airport (LGW)
Gatwick is London’s and the UK’s second busiest airport and is already a Top 10 International Airport and its new owners are determined that Gatwick should become an even more important player in global aviation. It currently serves 15 million scheduled passengers, as well as charter and leading European low-cost carriers.
Train: 30 minutes, £30
Gatwick Express is the fastest way into London with a non-stop train service to Victoria Station every 15 minutes with a journey time of 30 minutes, costing around £30.
Bus: 120 minutes, £10
The UK’s largest coach provider, National Express serve 70 destinations direct from both Gatwick terminals and offers connections to 900 across its network, including London Victoria. This is the only alternative if trains are off and although cheaper, the journey can take over two hours.
Stansted Airport (STN)
Stansted has one terminal, one large runway and flies passengers to over 190 destinations and even caters for private flights. Over the years the London Stansted Airport has many expansions and has improved its facilities a lot with on-site hotels plus a vast car park. Stansted is the largest base for Ryanair which is an airline that offers flights for budget prices. Planes fly to over 200 destinations (in Europe, Africa and the Middle-East) from Stansted and the airport is the fourth busiest airport in the UK.
Train: 50 minutes, £20
Stansted Express offers the fastest way to travel between London Stansted Airport and London. Trains depart every 15 minutes and take just 47 minutes to and from London Liverpool Street.
Bus: 50 minutes, £10
National Express coaches to London Stansted Airport run 24-hours a day and stop at 38 pick-up points, including 15 in central London. The journey in peak times will usually take more than an hour.