It should be so simple! You want to fly to London; you find an airport with the city name “London” in it, and think you’ve found the airport you need to fly to. After all, how many airports can one city have?
Unfortunately, in the case of London the answer is “a lot”. By trying to find a flight to “London”, you could find yourself being offered flights to up to six different airports depending on the type of traveler you are and where you’re flying from. Doubly unfortunately, not all of the options with the prefix “London” are actually anywhere near London itself, so if you’re planning on a short city break and getting a taxi to your hotel from the airport, you could be in for a shock. Confusing? Isn’t it just! Read on to find out why it’s essential to check which airport you’ll be flying in to, and why the name “London” shouldn’t be taken as “convenient” without these checks.
Heathrow is the main London airport, and if you’re flying in to London from an international destination then it’s likely (though not certain) to be your destination.
In terms of ease of travelling, Heathrow is probably the best option due to the wide range of destinations it flies to and its connection to the London Underground line. Although Heathrow is 15 miles from the “centre” of London, the connection options to London are limitless; public transport is widely available and well signposted, and a taxi won’t cost a fortune.
City of London
Most flights of a non-business nature will not arrive or depart from the City of London airport; which is unfortunate as it is the closest to the centre of the city, a mere 10 miles from all of the popular sightseeing locations. You may be able to get flights to the City airport, but only from domestic or close European areas; the airport is simply too small to accommodate big jets.
If you do fly into City of London, connecting to the sights or your hotel shouldn’t be a problem; a short bus or Underground ride is all that awaits.
Gatwick is London’s second-largest airport, and is situated 28 miles from the centre of London itself. If you wish to get a taxi to your central-London hotel from Gatwick, you’re probably going to pay a fair amount of money for it.
The arrivals terminal at London Gatwick airport.
There are public transport systems you can utilise, but the journey isn’t exactly quick; Gatwick is more suited for use of those who actually live in the UK, and can avoid the fuss of London proper while still catching regular international flights.
Considering London Luton airport is over 30 miles outside of London itself, isn’t served by an Underground line and has long public transport journey times to central London… you have to begin to wonder why it’s called “London Luton” at all. If you’re staying in the centre of London, if you can possibly avoid it do not fly in to Luton; it’s a long way to London. The “30 miles” is as the crow flies; in terms of actual journey times on the busy London motorways, it’s at least an hour from London Luton to the centre of the capital city.
And the winner of the why-is-this-called-Luton contest is London Stansted, which is over 40 miles from the city itself and an even longer actual-journey time than London Luton.
If you’re staying in the centre of London, ensure you fly in to Gatwick, Heathrow or London City airport. If you don’t, prepared for a long journey or an expensive taxi ride!