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London (all airports IATA code: LON) is served by a total of six airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Stansted, Luton, Southend). Travelling between the city and the airports is made relatively easy by the large number of public transport links that have been put in place over recent years. However, if transiting through London, be sure to check the arrival and departure airports carefully as transfers across the city may be quite time consuming. In addition to London’s five official airports (of which only two are located within Greater London), there are a number of other regional UK airports conveniently accessible from London. Since they offer a growing number of budget flights, choosing those airports can be cheaper (or even faster, depending on where in London your destination is).
For transfers directly between London’s airports, the fastest way (short of a taxi) is the direct inter-airport bus service by National Express. Buses between Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton run at least hourly, with Heathrow-Gatwick services taking 65min (£18) and Heathrow-Stansted services 90min (£20.50) (note that services between Stansted and Luton run only every two hours). It’s essential to allow leeway, as London’s expressways, especially the orbital M25 and the M1 motorway, are often congested to the point of gridlock. Some buses have toilets on board.
T2 was closed for redevelopment until 4 Jun 2014. Terminal 2 will eventually serve 20 million passengers a year and be home to 23 Star Alliance airlines, as well as Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic Little Red and Germanwings.)
Heathrow is dominated by the UK’s flag-carrier British Airways, who use the airport as its home base and principal hub, and consequently operate nearly 40% of all the airport’s flights. BA occupy all of Terminal 5, and have a major presence in Terminals 1 and 3. Flights landing at Heathrow are often delayed by up to an hour as a simple result of air traffic congestion and waiting for parking slots. To complicate the matter, airlines that fly into Heathrow are currently playing a system-wide game of musical chairs as gate assignments are cycled through the new terminal, making it even more necessary for travellers to check their terminal and gate assignment in advance. Do plan your itinerary to allocate some time needed to get through Heathrow Airport T3, there can be long queues if you are not holding an EEA passport.
More information on Heathrow Airport
After passing through security you will find no drinking fountains in the South Terminal departure lounge so as to increase the profits of drink vendors.
North Terminal: after passing through security, the intrepid traveller can find power sockets on many of the large columns. There are accessible sockets to the right of the left hand door from security, adjacent Super Dry. Starbucks also has sockets below the seating by the window around the corner from the serving area. All are unofficial. There are official mobile charging stations (paid) also.
Stansted is very distant from the centre of London at Charing Cross – almost 38 mi (60km) away in Essex but less than 29 mi (47km) from either Cambridge or Colchester.
There are several commercial Wi-Fi hotspots covering most of the airport, but they charge extortionate rates. A free Wi-Fi hotspot is in the arrivals gate area, next to the phone booths offering fixed internet.
Getting to Stansted for an early morning flight is fairly straight forward, coaches run through the night, provided by Terravision and National Express from London Victoria and London Liverpool Street. Terravision costs £9 one way and run roughly every hour throughout the night(although, on the rush hours the qeues for boarding Terravision coaches at the airport may take more then an hour). Be aware that lines are very common at Stansted, security check can easily take an hour. Also getting to the airport can take longer than the proclaimed 90 minutes, expect more like 120 minutes. Arriving in the airport, queueing for passport control can easily take up to 2 hours for non-EU passport holders, especially for Sunday night arrivals.
The airport is a major hub for easyJet, Ryanair, Wizzair, Thomson Airways and Monarch Airlines, with other airlines also serving the airport like Aer Arann, FlyBE and El Al, to cities primarily in Scotland, Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. If leaving on a morning flight (departing 07:00-08:30), it is advisable to leave extra time to check in and clear security due to the large number of flights leaving (particularly Wizzair).
Not as expensive to fly into as it used to be, and you may indeed find that from some origins, this may be your cheapest London airport to fly to, without even considering the cost savings of NOT coming from the distant larger London airports with £10+ transfer costs. Then there is the added bonus that it is close to central London, with a convenient link on the DLR. Minimum check-in time for most airlines is around 30 minutes, with some offering 15 minute check-in deadlines. Queues for security can be long at peak business times. From touchdown to the DLR (including taxi, disembarkation, immigration and baggage reclaim) can be as fast at 5 minutes, although 15 minutes is normal.
London Southend Airport, +44 1702 608100 (email@example.com). Serves a range of destinations in Europe and the British Isles
A journey time of 55-65 min. Travelcards are not valid. The airport has its own railway station “Southend Airport”, and is served from Liverpool Street, via Stratford by trains 17 hours a day. There are up to 8 trains an hour, depending on the time of day. The station is c. 200 yd from the terminal building.
Please note: Passengers from central London intending to use the first departures of the day (or the latest arrivals into SEN) should note that the earliest train from London arrives too late for first flights, and the final train to central London leaves before the final arrival of the day. The airport terminal building is not open 24 hours a day, opening at 4am and closing at midnight. Passengers will be asked to leave the terminal building after midnight when it closes. Therefore, this airport is not suitable for sleeping/camping out overnight for an early morning flight. There is a Holiday Inn Express hotel, a few minutes walk from the terminal, but it is advisable to book in advance for better deals and lower prices.
Southampton Airport, +44 870 040 0009. Every 30 min, journey time 1 hour. (IATA: SOU, ICAO: EGHI) is not officially a London airport, though accessible enough to conveniently serve the capital, especially South West London. A couple of budget carriers serving an increasing number of European destinations are based here. Direct trains connect Southampton airport to London Waterloo station. £30-35 round trip. Bournemouth Airport similarly operates a couple of Ryanair flight amongst others, and is not too far west on the train line from Southampton.
Birmingham International Airport, +44 870 733 5511. (IATA: BHX, ICAO: EGBB) is another non-London airport worth considering as a less congested and hectic alternative to Heathrow, being just over an hour away from London. As a major airport serving the UK’s second largest city, there is a good choice of long distance and European destinations. Direct trains connect Birmingham International to London Euston and Watford. The train station is connected to the terminal via a free shuttle train (2 minutes). From £10 (advance web purchase) one way, £35-100 round trip.
Other small airports, such as Oxford Airport can also be useful. Kent International Airport and Shoreham Airport (near Brighton) are similarly small. Biggin Hill in Bromley borough had a rejected licence bid in 2010 for commercial flights for the Olympics but may recieve one in the near future.