You could be forgiven for thinking that London had one airport that starts with a H and ends in eathrow. In all fairness, while I’d heard of Gatwick and Luton Airports before I arrived in the UK, it’s taken me at least six months to discover all the others.
Because, here at YourLifeChoices, we want to help as much as possible and create content that makes your life simpler, it is with great pleasure I present to you the following overview of London’s airports.
1. Heathrow (LHR)
Having slept at Heathrow, I have a few hard and fast rules for London’s most well-known and largest airport. Firstly, due to restrictions, there is a curfew on when flights can start and end for the day, this means that Heathrow ‘shuts down’ to some extent in the wee hours of the morning, and if, like me, you arrive at 2am, you will not be able to check in and be forced to sleep on your bags. This leads me to my next point.
While the Piccadilly line is the perfect way to get into Heathrow, with stations at each of the five terminals, the tube does not run all night, with the last train leaving towards LHR around midnight and the first one recommencing around 5am.
All that aside, LHR is an immaculate airport 33kms west of the city centre. It services most airlines that exist, including all the major players along with their respective airport lounges. With countless eateries, bars and shopping options, Heathrow also has free wifi.
As LHR consists of five different terminals, it’s a good idea to be sure which one you’re going to by using their ‘which terminal’ feature.
You can also take the Heathrow Express, which takes just 15 minutes between LHR and Paddington, or the Heathrow Connect, which also runs to Paddington but stops along the way. National Express buses, taxis, minicabs and uber are other options that, given the relatively short distance, won’t break the bank.
Look at London Heathrow Airport for more details.
2. Gatwick (LGW)
The second most popular airport near London, LGW is 58kms south of the city centre. It services many of the major airlines, including Emirates, Turkish Airways, American Airlines, British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Vueling Airlines, and the list goes on.
LGW has a wide range of duty free shops, restaurants, bars and food chains. It offers free wifi and charging points, and has an abundance of seats, unlike some of the smaller airports near London. Being a larger airport can mean it takes longer to get through check-in, security and customs. It can also mean the likelihood of flight delays is higher due to congestion – I once sat in a queue on the runway for over an hour here!
Most of the big airlines that utilise LGW have lounges here too.
To get to LGW you can take the Gatwick Express train, or First Capital Connect train, which both go into central London. You can also drive, catch a taxi, minicab or uber or, as I would strongly suggest, catch the EasyBus, which runs seven days a week, at all hours between Earls Court and both the North and South terminals at LGW. This leads me to my next tip: make sure you know from which terminal you’re leaving or arriving too!
Find out more at London Gatwick Airport.
3. Luton (LTN)
One of my personal favourites from which to fly in and out, LTN is easy to navigate, small and, thanks to EasyBus, easy to get to at all times of the day and night.
Located in Bedfordshire, 49kms north of London city centre, LTN is serviced by the main airlines, including easyJet, Wizz Air, Vueling Airlines, Atlasglobal and Ryanair. It also has a decent range of duty-free shopping and food options, and a dedicated business lounge that is worth getting into if you can, as often seats in the terminal can be scarce.
To get there I would recommend taking the EasyBus (you don’t have to be booked on an easyJet flight to do so), as it’s cheap and, as the name would suggest, it easily takes you from a few different points around central London to the terminal door, and running around the clock with prices from approximately AUS$4. Driving and catching a taxi are also options if you are not a bus person.
See London Luton Airport’s website.
4. London Stansted Airport (STN)
STN is 56kms north of London city centre. Austrian Airlines, Ryanair, easyJet, eurowings and Pegasus Airlines all fly to and from this airport. With a range of duty-free shops and food options, it also has an airport lounge and wifi for a price.
While not exactly close to London, you can drive to STN, take the Stansted Express train to and from Liverpool Street Station, or take the National Express train. These run to and from Stratford station, but do not run on Sundays. EasyBus also runs a fantastic and cheap service to Baker Street station. The National Express buses run to Victoria or Liverpool Street stations and take an hour and 45 minutes respectively.
Read more about London Stansted Airport.
5. London Southend Airport (SEN)
Not to be confused with Stansted airport – as I did on my infamous Barcelona trip – SEN is located at Southend-on-Sea, near Essex and is not near London. While it may be tempting to book flights to or from here as, no doubt, the fares are cheaper, trust me when I say it will unlikely end up cheaper after you’ve paid for your transportation to or from the airport. In fact, as I’ve tested for you, there’s a strong possibility your flight will end up costing less than the transport to get you there.
Right. Now that warning’s out the way the good things about SEN is it’s so small you fly through security, but, sadly, you’re then left killing time in what is essentially a ‘shed’ with a WH Smith and a token bar. Primarily servicing easyJet, Ryanair, Flybe, and Air France, it’s handy for anyone who lives in or around Essex.
How do you get there? Short answer: being 76kms away from London you just don’t. But if you must, you can catch a train from Liverpool Street Station, drive or catch a taxi, minicab or Uber. It may, however, be quicker to catch a flight to London City Airport (LCY).
Learn more about London Southend Airport.
6. London City Airport (LCY)
Closer than Heathrow is to the city, LCY is in the heart of London and is a favourite among business travellers who cannot bear to be away from their desks for the amount of time it would take them to get to Heathrow. Only 18kms from the city centre, it services; KLM, Swiss, Air France, Lufthansa and British Airways among others.
To get between the city and LCY you can drive, take the DLR train, which runs every 10 minutes between 05:32 and 00:37, or take a taxi or minicab.
You can find out all the details at London City Airport.
One final tip: I would strongly suggest that before you book your flight that you look at how you’re going to get to or from your chosen airport at the correct time to make your connecting flight. It’s easy to forget that trains don’t run all night – take it from me who’s made that mistake twice in the last year and paid for it!
So, of how many London airports are you aware and to how many have you been? Which is your preference when it comes to flying in or out of London?
SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. Her plane essentials include noise-cancelling headphones, a solid Spotify playlist, sleeping tablets, an eyemask and a large scarf that doubles as a blanket on cold flights – i.e. every one.