Flying to London’s Airports: Which is best/closest for me?

London is served by six airports. Only two of the airports are situated in within the limits of the Greater London Area – London Heathrow Airport, and London City Airport.

The other four Airports serving the Greater London Area are located in Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Southend-on-Sea.

Skepticism aside, the UK’s train network with fast and regular service, make the distances to the various airports insignificant. It takes an average 30 to 45 minutes to get to any of the six airports from central London by train,

The IATA code LON is used for all the five airports plus the London Biggin Hill Airport (which does not, however, serve any commercial flights). LON is convenient for searching all flights to/from London if the choice of airport is not important.

A Map of London’s Airports

Hear’s a handy map showing the locations of six major international airports serving the Greater London Airea

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London Heathrow (LHR)

London Heathrow is located in the westernmost London borough of Hillingdon, sharing a common border with the borough of Hunslow in the south. It is located 14 miles (22.5 km) west of Central London.

London Heathrow is the second busiest airport in the world by International passenger traffic after Dubai International. It served by around 80 airlines to 185 destinations around the world. The most popular destination from London Heathrow is to New York JFK.

Heathrow is a hub for British Airways which serves more than 130 scheduled destinations and more than 25 additional seasonal destinations.

Virgin Atlantic also uses Heathrow as a hub to serve 10 cities across the United States and 5 other cities in Asia and Africa such as New Delhi, Shanghai, Hong Kong Johannesburg and Lagos.

How to get to/from Heathrow ?

Heathrow can be easily reached by public transport from central London. The Heathrow website has a very good guide on taking Trains, Busses, Taxis and Private Cars to and from the airport. See:

The Heathrow Express train is the fastest way to get between Heathrow and London Paddington Station. It takes only 15 minutes and this is a huge time saver compared to taking the underground or even a taxi. See for the latest fares and schedules.

If you considering to stay at a hotel close to Heathrow Airport, then look for a hotel that is served by Hotel Hoppa.
Hotel Hoppa is a bus service that connects Heathrow to around 25 hotels located in the vicinity of the airport. It is a lot cheaper than a taxi and very convenient for the business traveller who knows exactly where he needs to be.

London City Airport (LCY)

LCY is the closest airport to Central London. It is located on the River Thames in the borough of Newham, 3 miles east of Canary Wharf and 6 miles from the City of London, the two main financial centres of the UK.

London City Airport destinations are mostly short haul within European Union such as Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Dublin, Milan, Zurich and Frankfurt. Most passengers are business travellers heading to the financial districts of Canary Wharf and the City of London.

However, London City Airport also caters to leisure destinations such as Malaga in Southern Spain, Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza.

Club World Business Class Flight: London – New York

British Airways operates a very exclusive all business class flight from London City Airport to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. It is called Club World London City, and it is served by the airlines only Airbus A318.

There are only 32 seats, all business class configuration, on Club World London City. The flight numbers allotted are also special.

Flight BA1 departs LCY daily at 9:50 AM. It stops for 50 minutes at Shannon International Airport in Ireland to fuel up. In that time, passengers go through US Pre-clearance and immigration. The flight lands at JFK at 2:40 PM where passengers deplane in Terminal 7 as domestic travellers, heading straight for baggage claim.

Flight BA2 departs JFK from Terminal 7 at 6:45 PM and flies non stop to LCY, landing at 6:55 AM

London City Airport has a Business Lounge and a First Class Lounge that are available to passengers for a fee. They are located away from the terminal buildings in an area, that is exclusive to private business jets. A complementary shuttle is provided between the lounges and the terminal.

London Gatwick Airport (LGW)

Gatwick Airport is located 12 miles (20 km) south of the nearest London borough of Croydon. It is the largest base for the low-cost carrier, Easy Jet, which accounts for more than 40% of the passenger traffic at the airport.

Easy Jet is the second-largest budget airline in Europe by the number of passengers carried, behind Ryanair. It connects Gatwick to more than 100 destinations in Europe and North Africa.

Gatwick is also a hub for other low-cost carriers such as Norwegian Air Shuttle, Thomas Cook Airlines and TUI Airways. Altogether, low-cost carriers account for more than 60% of passenger traffic at Gatwick, which makes it one of the cheapest airports to fly to/from the United Kingdom.

Gatwick’s location south of London makes it convenient and popular for passengers travelling from the South of England, such as Dover, Brighton and Southampton.

How to get to/from Gatwick?

The Gatwick website has a handy guide on getting to/from the airport by trains, bus, taxi or private car. See,

Trains from Gatwick Airport to/from London

Gatwick Airport is connected by rail to the Brighton Main line at its south terminal. The Gatwick Airport train Station can be reached from the North Terminal via a free shuttle.

The Great Western Railway operates one service from Gatwick to Reading, via the North Downs Line. The journey takes 1 hour 20 minutes and calls at several stops, including Guildford in Surrey.

The London-Gatwick route is monopolized by The Govia Thameslink Railway company which operates three brands of trains via Gatwick; The Gatwick Express, ThamesLink and Southern Railway.

The Gatwick Express train connects the airport non-stop to London Victoria in the north, and Brighton in the South of England. Trains depart on average every 12 minutes with an average journey time of 30 minutes.

It is recommended you pre-book your tickets for the Gatwick Express in advance and save as much as 10% off the fare,

Southern Railway trains connect Gatwick to Brighton and areas of South of England such as the Sussex Region, Kent, Hampshire and Southampton.

In the north, Southern Railway trains runs from Gatwick to London Victoria Station making halts at East Croydon and Clapham.

ThamesLink trains run from Brighton to Gatwick and proceed to London via Blackfriars station and London St Pancras.
Some trains travel further north toward Luton Airport Parkway and terminate at Bedford.

Beware: Because differing fare structures do not board The Gatwick Express, if your ticket is for Southern or Thameslink. Even if the three brands are part of the same company and because the Southern and Thameslink tickets being cheaper, you will be charged a penalty fare with a wrong ticket.

Bus and Coach to Gatwick Airport

The cheapest way to get between Gatwick and London (Victoria) is by easyBus, costing as little as £2. The average journey time however is around 1 hour 30 minutes.

National Express and Megabus connect Gatwick by bus to more than 900 destinations in the UK and Europe.

London Luton Airport (LTN)

Luton Airport is located 20 miles (32 km) north of the nearest London boroughs of Harrow and Barnet. It is roughly equidistant by 40 miles to Central London (Charing Cross), and the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge.

Luton Airport serves as headquarters to EasyJet and TUI Airways. It is a major hub for Wizz Air, a low-cost operator from Hungary.

Easy Jet serves more than 60 destinations from London Luton Airport. Wizz Air is positioned to serve around 50 destinations most of them on Eastern Europe. Luton is a secondary hub for Ryan Air, which connects it to around 25 destinations in Europe.

How to get to/from London Luton Airport ?

The Website for London Luton Airport has an easy to navigate guide for getting to and from the airport:

You can also find information on official on-site parking. For cheaper deals, you can search of offsite parking at SkyPark Secure or Pink Pig Airport Luton Off Parking,

Trains from Luton Airport to London

Luton is connected by rail at the Luton Airport Parkway Station (LTN), on the Midland Main Line. The station is served by East Midlands and Thameslink trains.

East Midlands operates an express train to Luton Airport Parkway (LTN) from London St Pancras (STP). This journey takes only 20 minutes. The trains then proceed north toward Bedford, Leicester and Nottingham.

Thameslink operates a frequent service run from Luton Airport Parkway south to St Albans and London’s St Pancras International Terminus.
These trains take between 30 and 45 minutes depending on the number of stations called along the way.
Some Thameslink trains travel further south to Gatwick Airport and Brighton without requiring a transfer.
In the north, Thameslink operates up to Bedford.

Shuttle buses departing every 10 minutes, operated by Thameslink, ferry passengers between the airport and the train station. This 6 minute bus ride can cost you £2.40

You can save 10p off the bus fare when buying a your ticket and specifying and selecting Luton Airport (LUA) as your final destination.

You can board either an East Midlands Train or a Thameslink train if you have a valid ticket between Luton Airport Parkway and London St Pancras. Make sure you are aware of any restrictions on your ticket.

Bus to Luton Airport

If you have luggage and you are on a budget, the best way to get to Luton Airport from London is by bus/coach. While you can take a train, you still need to transfer to a bus to get to/from the terminal. Luton Airport has coach stops just outside the terminal doors.
The bus journey, however, takes 1 hour 30 minutes.

Primarily, two companies: National Express and Greenline, operate buses every half hour from London’s Victoria Coach Terminal to Luton Airport. Both companies compete in rates and services offered on board.

Greenline offers a flat rate regardless if you booked in advance or buy your tickets from the driver. However, the driver may help you decide to buy the best ticket on offer.

National Express ticket prices between Luton and London can vary depending on when you purchase your tickets. Prices will definitely be cheapest if you book several days in advance.

National Express also connects Luton Airport to other destinations in the UK such as Oxford, Leicester, Nottingham, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Stansted Airport, Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport,

London Stansted Airport (STN)

Stansted Airport is located 22 miles (35 km) north of the nearest London borough of Redbridge. It is the third busiest “London” airport after Heathrow and Gatwick.

Stansted is the largest hub for RyanAir, which is Europe’s largest budget airline. It connects Stansted to over 130 destinations in Europe.

Other low-cost airlines flying from Stansted include Easy Jet and Jet2 which operate scheduled and seasonal flights.
Thomas Cook and TUI operate seasonal charter flights from Stansted.

Some of the most popular flights from Stansted are to Dublin, Edinbrugh, Rome, Madrid and holiday destinations such as Malaga, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife.

Getting to Stansted Airport

You can find a guide to transportation options at Standsted Airport from their website:

London to Stansted by train

Stansted Airport train station (SSD) is located under the airport terminal. GreaterAnglia operates the Stansted Express which runs south to London’s Liverpool Street Station. It departs every 15 minutes and covers the journey in 45 minutes average. There are two halts along the way at Harlow Town and Tottenham Hale.

In the north, Greater Anglia and CrossCountry also, run trains from Stansted Airport to the University Town of Cambridge. These trains depart alternatively every half-hour. The trains take an average 33 minutes to cover the distance between Stansted Airport and Cambridge.

GreaterAnglia trains from Stansted Airport stop along the way at Audley End and Whittlesford Parkway and terminate at Cambridge.

CrossCountry trains from Stansted Airport only stop at Audley End before heading toward Cambridge. These trains then continue further north to Peterborough, and then travel west toward Leicester and terminate at Birmingham New Street Station.

Taking a Bus to/from Stansted Airport

The Stansted Airport Coach Station is located just across from the terminal building and is accessed via the arrivals hall. It is a popular hub for connections to various towns in the East of England and the Midlands.

A bus from Stansted Airport to central London is cheaper than the train, but it takes an average 2 hours to complete the entire trip (if you compare 45 minutes by train).

The Airport bus express is most convenient if you are looking to get from London-Stansted to the Victoria coach station in Central London. Buses depart every half hour, making stops at London-Stratford, Liverpool Street and Baker Street.

The Airport Bus Express ticket is flexible and is valid for any journey made on the date specified on the ticket. This allows for any delays and disruptions.
Fares, however, are a flat rate regardless of how far in advance you book. You can find a cheaper ticket for early morning journeys.

National Express dominates operations at the Stansted Airport Coach Station with 96 daily departures to London and around 100 departures to various other destinations.

National Express operates 4 different bus routes from Stansted into London. Together these buses serve a larger area north of Thames. This is convenient for those who do not need to travel all the way to Central London.

The fares for National Express are dynamic. Tickets to Victoria Station are pricier if you buy tickets just before boarding.
However, you book atleast two weeks in advance, National Express tickets between Stansted and London Victoria can be 40% cheaper than those of Airport Bus Express.

London Southend Airport (SEN)

SEN Airport is located in Southend-on-Sea, 19 miles (30 km) east of the nearest London borough of Havering. It is the smallest “London” airport in terms of passenger traffic – which leads to a better passenger experience in terms of queuing, speedier services and baggage retrieval. Hence, Southend Airport has been consistently voted the best airport (Under 3 million passengers) in Britain.

London Southend Airport served as a base for Flybe until its takeover. Ryanair is expanding into Southend Airport and is expected to surpass easyJet in serving more sunshine destinations across Europe.

Popular destinations from Southend Airport include Dublin, Amsterdam, Alicante, Paris, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca.

Getting to Southend Airport from Central London

You can find a brief guide outlining transportation options for getting to/from London-Southend-on-Sea Airport:

Trains to/from London Southend Airport

Taking the Greater Anglia train from London Liverpool Street is perhaps the most convenient way to get to London-Southend-on-sea airport.

Greater Anglia operates trains every half hour from London Liverpool street Station to Southend Airport Station, which is located directly from across the terminal building via the Arrivals gate.

The trains make several stops including Strattford, Rayleigh, Southend Airport and terminate at Southend Victoria Station. The total journey between London Liverpool station and Southend Victoria Station takes 1 hour.

Another way for getting to Southend-on-sea from central London by train is from Fenchurch Street Station. This train is operated by c2c and stops at Southend Central Railway Station.

If you need to get to Southend Airport from Southend Central, take a short walk west on towards the Southend Travel Centre. From here you can take Arriva buses numbered 7, 8 or 9 to the Holiday Inn Southend Airport. It is another seven-minute walk from the hotel to the terminal.
The buses also stop at the Southend Victoria Station, from where you can take the train to the Southend Airport.

Getting on a Bus from Southend Airport

London Southend Airport lacks connection by bus. There is no space outside the terminal building to allow vehicles to stop and allow passengers to disembark or board.

There is a single coach service called X30, operated by First Bus, which connects Southend Airport to Stansted Airport. This bus stops on the opposite side of the terminal just outside the Arrivals gate, in front of the train station.

The X30 departs Southend Airport every hour of the day and night and stops at Rayleigh, and Chelmsford, and terminates at Stansted Airport.

Local Buses into town from Southend Airport

The nearest local bus-stop from Southend Airport is a seven-minute walk from the terminal. It is located on Eastwoodbury Crescent just past Holiday Inn Southend

From the Holiday Inn Southend Airport stop, local buses numbered 7, 8 and 9, operated by Arriva (in Herts & Essex), depart to Shoeburyness in the East and Rayleigh in the west.

Buses departing toward Shoeburyness go through the town of Southend where they stop at the Victoria Station Interchang, which is part of a complex that includes the Victoria Station Terminus and the Victoria Shopping Centre
From here, you can connect to all other buses that travel around the town of Southend-on-Sea.

From the Victoria Station Interchange, buses 7, 8 and 9 travel south on Chichester Rd toward Southend-on-Sea Travel Center. From here you can also connect to First Bus services that serve other towns in the South Essex region.

There is a bus to London Victoria Coach Station operated by National Express from the Southend Travel Centre. It departs every hour and takes 2 hours to reach London.

The Travel Centre is also a short walk from the Southend Central Railway station managed by c2c which operates trains to Shoeburyness and Fenchurch Street Station in Central London.

The Travel Centre is across from the Royals Shopping Centre. The famous 1.34 mile Southend-Pier and Adventure Park is just behind the shopping centre.

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