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Which London Airport is Best?

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This post provides details about each of the 5 airports in London.

We include details on locations, how to get to the city from each airport, and other important information.


Gatwick Airport

Gatwick is London’s second busiest airport and its’ airport code is LGW.

Located directly south of the city, Gatwick Airport is a popular hub for both domestic and international flights.

Photo by Cloudbound Under CC 2.0

How to Get To/From Gatwick Airport

There are a number of ways to travel from Gatwick Airport to the city centre:

Bus: National Express and EasyBus both offer airport transfers. You can expect to pay between £8.00 - £13.00 depending on time of travel, but depending on when you arrive and traffic conditions, your journey into town could take well over an hour.

Train: Two rail companies have stops at Gatwick Airport: Thameslink and Southern. Both train lines offer journeys for just over £12.00 one way and call at multiple stations, not just straight to Victoria which may be beneficial for those staying closer to the centre of the city. Depending on where you travel to, your journey will be 30 - 45 minutes.

Gatwick Express: The Gatwick Express is a nonstop service that runs between Gatwick Airport and Victoria Station. This is the fastest way to travel, with a journey taking only 30 minutes. But you will be paying £18.50 for a single journey when booking online. Find out more about the Gatwick Express on our blog post HERE.

Taxi: Of course you can always pick up a taxi from the airport, but expect to pay between £80.00 - £120.00, depending on time of day and traffic conditions.

For more information on getting to/from Gatwick airport check out our blog post HERE.

Terminals

Gatwick Airport has two terminals.

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest

As a busy airport, both Gatwick terminals are well served with a number of restaurants and bars as well as numerous shops so if you forgot to pack anything, chances are you can buy it here. 

South Terminal

Aer Lingus

Air Baltic

Air Europa

British Airways

Eastern Airways

EasyJet (uses both terminals so pay attention!)

Norwegian

Norse

Ryanair

Wizz Air

North Terminal


Emirates

Icelandair

Jet2

JetBlue

Qatar Airways

WestJet

For a comprehensive list of all airlines, visit Gatwick’s site HERE.


Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport is London’s busiest airport, and if you are flying directly from the United States, it is most likely you will land here. Heathrow’s airport code is LHR.

Getting To/From Heathrow Airport

Because Heathrow Airport is so large, it’s fairly easy to get to and from and you have a number of options to choose from.

London Underground - The Piccadilly Line runs directly through the city, straight to the airport, and back. It’s a cheap and easy option with a one way fare costing around £5.50 at peak hours and £3.50 offpeak. The station is literally located within the airport so it’s super easy to get to. Depending on where you’re staying in town, your journey will take around 30 - 50 minutes. For more information on taking the Piccadilly Line to and from Heathrow, check out our blog post HERE.

The Elizabeth Line - The newest part of the Transport for London network, the Elizabeth Line also has a station inside Heathrow Airport to the east, making it an excellent choice for visitors staying on that side of town. Your 35 - 65 minute journey (depending on where you are headed) will cost around £12.70 during peak hours.

The Heathrow Express - This is the fastest way to get into central London. The Heathrow Express takes just 15 minutes to get to Paddington Station, and advance-fare tickets can be bought for less than £6.00. However, if you don’t buy your ticket early enough you can expect to pay £37.00 for a round trip journey. For more information on taking the Heathrow Express, check out our blog post HERE.

Bus - The National Express runs a service from central London to Heathrow Airport at a cost of £15.00 one way, but with traffic the journey can take up to 2 hours, depending on where you are headed to.

Black Cabs and Ubers - Again, traffic makes cabs and Ubers a slow choice, and also often an expensive one with journeys in a black cab from central London costing over £100.00.

For more information on getting to and from Heathrow Airport check out our blog post HERE.

Terminals

Photo Courtesy of Heathrow Airport

Heathrow is huge and has 5 terminals, but only 4 of them are currently operating. Heathrow is almost like a small city and you will find countless places to eat and drink as well as high street shops and luxury brands available to explore.

There is a Piccadilly Line service and also a Heathrow rail service that connects the different terminals, making it easy to get from one to the other if needed.

Terminal 2

This terminal is mostly European flights, although not exclusively

Aegean Airlines

Aer Lingus

Air Canada

Air China

Air India

Austrian Airlines

Brussels Airlines

Eurowings

Icelandair

Lufthansa

Scandinavian Airlines

Singapore Airlines

Swiss International Airlines

United Airlines

Terminal 3

This terminal is mainly long haul flights to the US, South America and Asia

American Airlines

Cathay Pacific

Delta Airlines

Emirates

Finnair

Japan Airlines

Qantas

Virgin Atlantic

Terminal 4

This terminal is a mix of long haul and European flights

Aeroflot

Air France

China Eastern Airlines

KLM

Korean Air

Malaysia Airlines System

Qatar Airways

Terminal 5

This is the hub for British Airways in the UK so all their flights to and from Heathrow begin and end here. BA is the only airline that serves this terminal.

For details on all airlines, visit Heathrow’s terminal page HERE.


London City Airport

London City is the least busiest of London’s airports and primarily serves business travellers as the airport operates only short haul flights throughout the UK and Europe and is within close proximity to Canary Wharf. London City’s airport code is LCY.

Photo by Davedavtat Under CC 4.0

Getting To/From London City Airport

As London City Airport is so small and not as busy as others in London, your travel options are more limited.

London Underground/DLR- The branch of the London Underground that serves this area of the city, known as the Docklands, is the Docklands Light Railway. This is an above ground system that connects the city with the docklands area. London City Airport has its’ own station on the DLR and the line connects to Bank Station and the Underground system in central London. Journey times are around 40 - 60 minutes depending on where you are coming from and the cost is under £5.00 off-peak.

The Elizabeth Line - The New Elizabeth Line also connects London City Airport to the rest of the capital. Depending on when and where you travel to, you can expect to spend between £5.00 - £12.00 for your journey. Trains are frequent and large with space for luggage.

Taxi/Uber - Owing to the high number of business travellers, this is the most common way most people get to/from London City Airport. However, if your business isn’t paying for your travel, be aware that a journey to the airport can cost you around £100.00 depending on where you are coming from.

Terminals

You’ll find mostly food-on-the go at London City and extremely limited shops.

London City Airport has one terminal and the airlines that use it are:

British Airways

ITA Airways

KLM

Loganair

LOT Polish Airlines

Lufthansa

Luxair

Swiss International Air Lines

For more information on London City Airport visit their website HERE.


Luton Airport

Luton Airport lies around 30 niles to the north of London and its’ airport code is LTN.

Photo by Geoff Collins Under CC 2.0

Getting To/From Luton Airport

Trains - ThamesLink trains offer a service from central London to Luton Airport. Depending on travel times, you can expect to pay around £15.00 and your journey takes about 40 minutes. There is a shuttle bus that runs from Luton Airport Parkway Station directly to the airport itself.

Bus - National Express runs a service from central London to Luton Airport for as cheap around £7.00 one way off-peak. However, traffic is always a consideration so a standard journey takes 1 hour and 40 minutes - this time can be doubled during peak traffic.

Taxi/Uber - It’s a long way to Luton airport from central London so this is another slow option, as well as a pricey one with a one way journey costing over £80.00.

Terminals

Photo courtesy of Luton Airport

Although small, Luton has a lot of shopping and also multiple bars and restaurants.

Luton Airport has one terminal, serving short haul flights only. The airlines that use Luton are:

Aer Arann

EasyJet

Flybe

Monarch

Pegasus

Ryanair

Silvert

SkyEurope

Spanair

Wizz Air

For more information on airlines that serve Luton visit their website HERE.


Stansted Airport

London Stansted is the fourth busiest airport in the country and if you are flying in from Europe, odds are this is where you will be coming to/from. Located in Essex, Stagnated’s airport code is STN.

Photo by Oxyman Under CC 3.0

Getting To/From Stansted

Since Stansted is a relatively popular airport, there are many options to get to/from.

Stansted Express - The fastest way to get to Stansted is the Stansted Express. These trains go nonstop between the airport and Liverpool Street Station. If booked in advance, you can get a one way ticket on the Express for under £10.00. The journey takes just under an hour.

Bus - National Express runs a service from central London to Stansted. Tickets can be as low as £11.00 depending on travel time, but you can expect to spend a minimum of 70 minutes on the bus, if there is no traffic. EasyBus also operates a Stansted service with off peak services costing

a mere £1.99, although the sis another journey that is traffic dependent, taking a minimum of 75 minutes, but that could double in peak traffic times.

Taxi/Uber - Stansted is another airport that’s quite far from the city centre so cab prices will be well over £100.00 from the city centre.

Terminals

Stansted is small but dose have a few places to grab food and also a few shops to browse.

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest

Stansted has only one passenger terminal and primarily manages flights to/from Europe. Airlines you’ll find here are:

British Airways

CCM Airlines

EasyJet

Emirates

Eurowings

Flybe

Jet2

Ryanair

Tui

For more information on airlines serving Stansted, check out their website HERE.


Which Airport is Best?

Ultimately, the answer to this question depends on where your flight is coming from.

If you’re traveling here from North and South America, chances are that the choice will be made for you as the majority of International flights come into Heathrow, with a few going to Gatwick instead. Both our posts linked above will give you in depth advice on travelling to/from these two airports.

If you’re traveling from Europe, Stansted and Luton have easy rail access to the city, but if you happen to be staying in the east of town or in the Square Mile, London City may be a good bet with cheap and fast access to your hotel. It’s also a great way to avoid the crowds.

Once you’ve landed, and it’s time to take the London Underground, take a look at our post for tips on navigating the system HERE.

About The Author

Margaret

An American simply by accident of birth, Margaret moved to London over 16 years ago and hasn’t looked back since! With a keen interest in History – and a BA degree to match – Margaret prides herself on her knowledge of the amazing city she calls home and she's been guiding here now for nearly a decade. Social history is her real expertise, with sound understanding of the day-to-day lives of Londoners over the past centuries.
Updated: October 10th, 2022
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