Which London Airport is the Best to Fly Into?


London is home to six airports! These are Heathrow, Gatwick, Standsted, Luton, City, and Southend. All have their good bits and bad bits. We like Heathrow, but before we get into that let’s look at the facts.

So, which London airport is the best to fly into?

Heathrow Aiport, in our opinion, is best. However, depending on what you’re looking for, the other London airports have a lot to offer too. Here’s a table we’ve put together to illustrate that.

AirportDistance to Central London (approx. miles/km)Closest Railway Station
Heathrow14 miles / 23 kmHeathrow Airport
Gatwick28 miles / 45 kmGatwick Aiport
Stansted39 miles / 63 kmStansted Airport
Luton35 miles / 56 kmLuton Airport Parkway
City9 miles / 14 kmLondon City Airport
Southend42 miles / 68 kmSouthend Airport

The main things to consider when picking the best airport to fly into is not just what we’ve noted above, but also, the airport’s location, ease of access, parking and airlines that operate in the airports. We’ll take you through each London airport what we think are the main points to consider.

London Heathrow Airport – Everything You Need to Know

Known For

Heathrow Airport is in our opinion the number one airport in London. With 4 terminals, this international airport is the biggest in the UK and your main portal to the rest of the world.

Location

Located in West London in the Longford area. All terminals are within around half an hour’s drive of each other. Just make sure you check which terminal your flight is leaving from as unsurprisingly, London’s roads can get very busy and the last thing you want to do is go to the wrong terminal!

Number of Terminals

There are currently 4 open terminals – Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5. Terminal 1 closed in 2015.

Access to Airport

The London Underground aka The Tube

You can easily get to the airport using the tube. The stops are located on the Piccadilly line and there are stops at whichever terminal you need to get to. One-stop that covers Terminal 2 and 3 and a dedicated stop each for Terminal 4 and 5.

Train – Heathrow Express

As the name suggests, this is a really quick way to reach the airport. You can catch this train from Paddington Railway Station. The trains run around every 15 minutes so are fairly regular.

  • Terminal 2 & 3 – the journey is about 15 minutes.
  • Terminal 4 – get off at the Terminal 2 & 3 stop to get a free connecting train to Terminal 4. The connecting train runs about every 15 minutes and takes 4 minutes to get to Terminal 4.
  • Terminal 5 – the journey takes around 20 minutes.
Ticket TypePrice
Single – Off Peak£22
Single – Peak *£25
Return£37

* Peak: Monday – Friday at 6:30 am – 9:30am or 4pm – 7 pm, excluding UK Bank Holidays.

Top Tips:

  • Book in advance from £5.50 one way at weekends and £12.10 one way on weekdays.
  • Book from £5.50 one way when you book 90 days in advance (limited availability).
  • If you’re traveling as a couple or family, it’s best to check to see whether you can get a discount. Check out the latest information on the Heathrow Express website here.

You can also pay using an Oyster Card (pre-paid top-up card) & Contactless Payment with your credit or debit card. If you’re paying for your travel on the day, they’ll be no difference to the cost compared to the ticket (as shown in the table above). It’s only worth buying the tickets if you’re going to book way in advance or if you’re traveling as a couple or family.

Coach

The following coach companies run services to Heathrow Airport:

  • National Express – great for free WiFi, leather reclining seats and air conditioning.
  • Megabus – great super cheap prices.
  • The Airline – great for connecting to Oxford.
  • RailAir – great for connecting to Feltham, Reading, Woking and Watford Junction railway stations.

Bus

If you’re a local or just in the area of West London, it’s definitely worth checking out this option. There are a number of TFL buses that run services to the airport. This is definitely an inexpensive way to get to the airport. It’s important to note that these buses are cashless so you can either pay by Contactless, Oyster card or a Day Travelcard. To see which buses operate this service, check out the TFL website here.

Car

If you’re traveling by car, ensure you exit the motorway at the correct junction.

For Terminals 2, 3 and 4, exit the M4 at junction 4 or M25 at junction 15 and follow signs for Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3.

For Terminal 5, exit at junction 14 of the M25. If you’re on the M4, exit at junction 4b and follow the M25 south to junction 14.

Terminal (T)Postcode (Zip Code)
T2TW6 1EW
T3TW6 1QG
T4TW6 3XA
T5TW6 2GA

Parking at Heathrow

Car Park Transfer to AiportPriceFeatures
Short Stay2-5 minutes walk from every terminal.Begins at £4.50.Free electric car charging
24/7 security.
Advance booking rates available.
Long StayFree shuttle bus to and from every terminal every 10 minutes.
Journey times:
T2: 11 mins
T3: 18 mins
T4: 5 mins
T5: 8 mins
Free up to 2 hours, then from £30.50 for the first day and £24.50 for each additional 24 hours.
Increased prices during certain periods.
CCTV.
Fencing.
Security patrol.
BusinessLocated at all terminals.
T5: Shuttle buses run every 5 mins, journey time is 5 mins.
Day rate is £35.CCTV.
Fencing.
Security patrols.
Meet & GreetMeet at Short Stay car park (as above).Begins at £107.No need to find a space.
Save time.
Pod Available at T5 only in the Business car park.
6 min journey.
Begins at £38.On-demand transfer.
24/7 secure parking.
ValetThe fastest way to depart and come back.Begins at £107.Available at all terminals.
Professional cleaning available.

The Pros

  • Destination Galore – you can reach well over 100 destinations from this airport.
  • Access – So many travel options to and from the airport.
  • Shopping & Eating – Over 75 stores and over 30 restaurants, there is plenty to keep you entertained while waiting for your flight.

The Cons

  • Queues – it is unfortunately known for the long queues whether that be in check-in or security so advisable to get there extra early.
  • Long journey time to the airport from East London – located in West London, this can easily add on hours to your journey whether traveling by train, coach or car due to London being so busy on or off the road.
  • No Budget Airlines – not known for low-cost flights, budget airlines don’t really operate from this airport.

London Gatwick Airport – Everything You Need to Know

Known For

The second international largest airport in the UK with more options to travel with budget airlines.

Location

Located in South London, this airport is based Horley.

Number of Terminals

There are two terminals – the North terminal and the South terminal.

Access to Airport

Train

The station is based at the South terminal (there is a free shuttle bus available at the North terminal to take you to the South terminal for access to the train station).

Incredibly, Gatwick Airport Station can connect you to 120 stations directly!

Train OperatorRegion Covered
Gatwick ExpressLondon Victoria
SouthernLondon
South East
ThameslinkCentral London
Brighton
Luton Airport Parkway
Great Western RailwayRedhill
Reigate
Guildford
Reading

Gatwick Express – The journey time is around 30 minutes and trains run every 15 minutes.

Coach

The following coach companies run services to Gatwick Airport:

  • easyBus – super cheap option with prices starting from £2!
  • National Express – great for free WiFi, leather reclining seats and air conditioning.
  • Megabus – great for super cheap prices.
  • The Airline – great for connecting to Oxford.

Bus

Metrobus and Southdown run services to and from the airport to local towns. Make sure you check from which terminal to catch the bus from.

Bus OperatorBusTowns
Metrobus4 & 5County Oak
Crawley
Wakehams Green
Metrobus10Crawley
Bewbush
Metrobus20Horley
Broadfield
Metrobus22Holmbury St Mary
Dorking
Crawley
Metrobus100Redhill
Maidenbower
Metrobus200Langley Green
Ifield
Horsham
Metrobus400East Grinstead
Caterham
Metrobus460Redhill
Crawley
Southdown422Crawley
Manor Royal
Gatwick Airport
Cheyne Walk
Horley
Westvale Park
Woodhatch
Reigate

Car

You can access Gatwick Airport from the M25 and M23. There are plenty of signs available.

  • M25 – exit at junction 7 to join the M23
  • M23 – exit at junction 9
TerminalPostcode (Zip Code)
NorthRH6 0PJ
SouthRH6 0NP

Parking at Gatwick

Car ParkTransfer to AirportPriceFeaturesPostcode (Zip Code)
Short Stay5 minute walk to both terminals.Begins at £4.00 (£5.30 for premium).5-minute covered walk into the terminal.
Extra-wide Blue Badge spaces available.
Premium Parking available.
North Terminal: RH6 0PJ
South Terminal:
RH6 0LL
Long StayFree shuttle bus.
North Terminal: 7-12 mins.
South Terminal: 5-10 mins.
Begins at £25 for the first day and £20 for each additional day.Extra-wide blue badge parking spaces.

North Terminal: RH6 0RN
South Terminal:
RH6 0LL
ValetThe fastest and easiest access to the terminal.Get a quote.Regularly patrolled.
On arrival, your car will be waiting for you.
Premium Parking available.
North Terminal: RH6 0PJ
South Terminal: RH6 0LL

The Pros

  • Budget Airlines – compared to Heathrow, this airport offers more budget airlines, so great to know you can travel at a great price.
  • Short Haul & Long Haul – great for offering a variety of short haul and long haul flights.
  • Train Links – Gatwick has an impressive number of links by rail – over 120 stations can be reached directly!

The Cons

  • Far Far Away – Being located in South London, it can be a mission to get to if you’re driving from the North – traffic on the M25 likely!
  • Shopping & Eating – Compared to Heathrow, the choice and number of stores and restaurants are definitely less, but only to be expected considering this is a smaller airport.

London Stansted Airport – Everything You Need to Know

Known For

Stansted Airport is known for the range of budget airlines if offers. Probably the best airport for short-haul flights.

Location

Located in Stansted Mountfitchet, this airport is based in the northeast region of London.

Access to Airport

Train – Stansted Express

This train departs from London Liverpool Street, stopping at Tottenham Hale only before reaching Stansted Airport in under 50 minutes. It takes just over half an hour to reach Stansted Airport from Tottenham Hale. Services run every 15 minutes.

The station is located only two minutes walk from the airport.

Another benefit of this airport is that early trains run from 3:40am for early flights, but only on Monday, Friday and Saturday departing from London Liverpool Street.

However, bear in mind, at this time, the train doesn’t stop at Tottenham Hale. Trains from 4:40 am onwards from London Liverpool Street will stop at Tottenham Hale. Find out more information about train times here on the Stansted Express website.

To find out about tickets, check out the Standsted Express website here. In general, prices range from around £20 one way and around £30 return. There are other options to book as a group (more than 10 people) or couple to save that extra bit of money.

Top Tip:

  • Book online in advance (up to 6 months) to save money. You can get a ticket from £9.70 one way from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport. There is however only a limited number of tickets available.

Train

While two platforms are dedicated to Stansted Express, one platform is used for other services, for example, a direct train runs from Stansted Airport via Cambridge to Norwich calling at many stops along the way.

Coach

The coach station is located only a two-minute walk away from Stansted Airport.

The following coach companies run services to Stansted Airport:

  • Airport Bus Express – great for free Wi-Fi, power sockets, air conditioning, and super spacious comfy seats.
  • National Express – great for free WiFi, leather reclining seats and air conditioning.
Coach OperatorCoachStops
Airport Bus ExpressA21Stratford
Liverpool Street
Airport Bus ExpressA20Baker Street
Victoria Bus/Coach Station
National ExpressA6Golders Green
Finchley Road
St John’s Wood
Baker Street
Paddington
Marble Arch
Portman Square
National ExpressA7Bow
Mile End
Whitechapel
Southwark
Waterloo
Victoria Train Station
Victoria Bus/Coach Station
National ExpressA8 South Hackney
Bethnal Green
Shoreditch
Liverpool Street
Farringdon
Kings Cross London
National ExpressA9Stratford

Bus

First Essex operates services from and to Stansted Airport.

BusTowns
X10 Barnston
Chelmsford
Wickford
Basildon
X30Dunmow
Chelmsford
Rayleigh
Southend-on-Sea
42ADunmow
Broomfield
Chelmsford
Galleywood

Car

To get to Stansted Airport, exit the M11 at junction 8a if you’re coming from London. If you’re coming from the Cambridge direction, exit the M11 at junction 8. There are plenty of signs available. The postcode for London Stansted Airport is CM24 1RW.

Parking

There are a number of car parking options available, which we have summarised below, however, for further information check out the Stansted Airport website here.

Car ParkTransfer to AirportFeatures
Short Stay – Green Multistorey 5-8 minute walkCovered walkway.
Secure.
Short Stay – Blue Zone 10-12 minute walk Secure.
Well lit.
Short Stay – Orange Zone, Red Zone 3 minute walkCCTV.
Floodlighting.
Security barriers.
Regular staff patrols.
Entry and exit barriers.
Short Stay – Yellow Zone 7-10 minute walkCCTV.
Floodlighting.
Security barriers.
Regular staff patrols.
Entry and exit barriers.
Short Stay – Economy10-15 minute walkCCTV.
Floodlighting.
Security barriers.
Regular staff patrols.
Entry and exit barriers.
Mid Stay7 minutes by free shuttle bus.
Services run every 10 minutes.
Well lit.
Secure.
Long Stay15 minutes by free shuttle bus.
Services run every 15 minutes.
Value parking for duration over 2 weeks.
Secure.
Meet & Greet & Meet & Greet Plus2 minute walkCCTV.
Floodlighting.
Security fencing.
Regular staff patrols.
Plus option: Access the fast lane through security.
Valet 1-2 minute walkSecure.
Your car will be waiting for you as soon as you arrive back.

The Pros

  • Budget-Friendly – this is a great airport for budget airlines.
  • Walking Friendly – as a smaller airport, there’s a lot less walking to do. Walking from check-in to security to the gate doesn’t take too much time at all.

The Cons

  • Not International Friendly – not the best airport if you’re looking for international destinations. Although they do fly to Dubai, the choice just isn’t there currently.

London Luton Airport – Everything You Need to Know

Known For

An international airport is largely known for servicing low-cost carriers such as Easy Jet and Ryanair on Short-Haul Flights. The airport does, however, charter long haul flights to Northern Africa and Asia.

Location

The airport is located in East Luton in the county of Bedfordshire and is 28 miles (45 km) north of central London. The airport is accessible from Central London train stations and is also accessible from the M1 motorway.

Access to Airport

Train

Trains between King’s Cross St Pancras in Central London and Luton Airport Parkway Railway Station take under 30 minutes on the fastest train. The slower trains take a maximum of 40 minutes.

Ticket prices vary from £13.50 off-peak return tickets to around £17.90 anytime return tickets. You can check prices as they are subject to change on the national rail website here.

Top Tips:

  • Make sure you buy a train ticket to Luton Airport and not Luton Airport Parkway Railway Station. The ticket price will be similar and will save you paying additional fees for the shuttle bus.
  • You will need to take a shuttle bus between Luton Airport Parkway Railway station and the airport terminal. This will usually take around 10 minutes. So factor in the extra time when traveling.

Coach

The following coach companies run services to London Luton Airport:

  • National Express – great for free WiFi, leather reclining seats and air conditioning.
  • Megabus – great super cheap prices.
  • Greenline 757 – High-Frequency coach service from London locations to Luton Airport

Bus

If you’re a local or traveling from Central London, it’s definitely worth checking out this option. National Express and Greenline operate 2 routes from London Victoria and Paddington Station but have a number of other stops on the way. To see which buses operate check out this London-Luton Airport resource here.

If you’re traveling from an area local to Luton or outside London, here’s another link, also from London Luton Airport that may help you plan your journey.

Car

Driving to London Luton airport is very easy and preferable if you are traveling within the UK. It’s close to the M1 and M25 which makes it a really good option to drive to. Use postcode LU2 9QT when driving to the airport.

Regions and distance from London Luton Airport:

  • North London: 30 miles / 48.2 km
  • Milton Keynes: 25 miles / 40.2 km
  • Birmingham: 90 miles / 144.8 km
  • Oxford: 50 miles / 80.4 km
  • Cambridge: 35 miles / 56.3 km
  • Bedford: 22 miles / 35.4 km

Parking

The parking is pretty good, and probably the best value for money for a London Airport. Here is a view of the parking fees and London Luton Airport. Click on the picture below for more information.

The Pros

  • Quick Queuing – as Luton Airport is relatively small, getting from the gate to the baggage claim, and finally to transportation is super quick.
  • Cheap – lots of cheaper no-frills airline options which makes travel to Europe from London Luton Airport a great option for good flight deals.

The Cons

  • Frequency of Trains – trains are not as frequent as those servicing the larger airports like Gatwick or Heathrow which can be a bit of pain when traveling to and from Central London.
  • International Flights – there are not as many international flight options available to as Heathrow or Gatwick or City airport.

London City Airport – Everything You Need to Know

Known For

London City Airport is known as the ‘Business Travelers Aiport’. The reason being is that its very accessible from London’s two financial districts, the City and Canary Wharf. It’s therefore used by commuters and those traveling on business regularly. London City Airport actually only has one runway but even so, it is used by 4.3 million people annually. This makes it the 13th busiest airport in the UK.

Location

London City Airport is an international airport in London located in the Royal Docks in Newham within 10 km of Canary Wharf and 11km from the main city.

Access to Airport

Train

This train is the perfect airport for the busy traveler. With direct links from Stratford International Train Station and Bank Underground station, it’s easy to see why this airport is so popular with Londoners. The DLR runs very frequently, every 5-10 minutes. You can plan your journey using the London City Airport Journey Planner here.

Coach

National Express – National Express does not go directly to City Airport but does drop you off very close to it.

Bus

London City Airport is located very close to central London, therefore there are no direct shuttle bus lines from the airport.

It is possible to travel to the airport by bus via other routes:

  • Line 437 – The line goes to Stratford via Plaistow and North Woolwich.
  • Line 474 – The line goes to Canning Town, Manor Park, and East Ham.

Use this link from getbybus.com for more information and guidance.

Car

Driving to London City airport is relatively simple. Your route will mean traveling on the M25, M11 followed by the A13. Given that you will be driving in and around Central London beware of congestion. Luckily you won’t have to pay any other surcharges as London City airport is located outside the London Congestion Charge zone.

If you are driving, use the following postcode for the airport for your Sat Nav: E16 2PX.

Parking at London City airport is very expensive. If you can take the train to London then use the London Underground and DLR, this is advisable. However, to give you an idea of charges, this is a rough idea of what you’d be looking at. In the table below SS is a short stay, LS is a long stay.

There is alternative offsite parking that is available at London City Airport. Airport Parking Shop (an airport parking broker) can help you source a parking spot to suit your needs. Here’s a link should you need it.

The Pros

  • Easy Access – very accessible via London underground and Overground network from Central London.

The Cons

  • Not Driver Friendly – not the best airport to drive to. Lots of potential for congestion. If you are driving make sure you allow time to account for this.

London Southend Airport – Everything You Need to Know

Known For

Southend Airport the furthest London airport from Central London. It is a small, convenient airport, especially for those living in the Essex area.

Location

Located in Southend-on-Sea, less than 5 miles from the sea.

Access to Airport

Train

The train station is only a two-minute walk away from the airport.

It’s super easy to get into Central London:

  • To and from London Liverpool Street Station takes just over 50 minutes.
  • To and from Stratford Station takes under 45 minutes.
Ticket TypeStation (To/From Southend Airport)Price Starting From
One WayLondon Liverpool Street£17.80
ReturnLondon Liverpool Street£27.40
One WayStratford£14.50
ReturnStratford£26.50

Coach

The Jetlink X1 service is the only coach service available.

The coach departs at 3:00am from London Victoria and reaches Southend Airport at 4:35am.

The coach departs at 11:40pm from Southend Airport and reaches London Victoria at 1:05am.

This is not a direct coach. It also stops at Embankment Station, Tower Hill, Canning Town Station, and Lakeside Bus Station.

It costs £17.50 for adults and £12.00 for children one way. Return journeys must be booked separately.

Bus

First Group Buses operate the X30 service which runs between Southend and Stansted Airport via Southend Airport and Chelmsford. For ticket information, find out more here.

Arriva buses 7, 8 and 9 all have a stop for Southend Airport off-site. For more information, check out the Arriva website here.

Car

If you’re driving, Southend Airport is easily accessible from the M25. Exit from junction 29 and follow the A127 for Southend. If you’re coming from Central London, you can come via the A12 or A13 and follow signs for Southend. The postcode for Southend Airport is SS2 6YF.

The Pros

  • Fewer Queues – great for less time queuing for check-in and security. Last time we flew from here, we were the only passengers in security!
  • Close to the Seaside – you can visit the seaside if you have spare time before catching a flight or on arrival at the airport, it’s only less than 15 minutes’ drive away!

The Cons

  • Small Airport – if you choose to arrive super early, there isn’t a lot to keep you entertained, there are only a handful of shops and places to eat.
  • Location – as the airport is located far east of London, getting into Central London is not the quickest.

Summary

Overall, London is serviced pretty well for the choice of airports. In a nutshell, here’s a one liner for each airport:

  • Heathrow – best all-rounder airport!
  • Gatwick – a great mix of airlines for your budget!
  • Stansted – best airport for budget airlines!
  • Luton – offers a mix of short and long haul flights!
  • City – great for people going business trips due to easy access as it has a central location!
  • Southend – quiet, convenient airport, favorable for those people based on the East side of London!

We hope you enjoyed our article, feel free to check out some of our other content:

6 thoughts on “Which London Airport is the Best to Fly Into?

  1. Great article. Very informative. I like the break down of simplicity with the tables of information. A good read also.

  2. Really good article and easy to read, as the Binge Traveller commented. You might add a currancy exhange calculator for the ease of readers outside the UK……or not. It was well written and informative!

    1. Thanks. That’s a great idea. We’re looking into the crasabilityvof that and we’ll let you know!

  3. That is a very informative article; it is straightforward and easy to follow. If I may ask, why did is terminal 1 at Heathrow closed? It will help many people to make their choice and move around.

    1. Glad to know it was useful! Terminal 1 closed in 2015. I believe the area is now being used to extend Terminal 2.

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