London is a leading air transport center in the world and the epicenter is incredibly small for long-haul airline tickets. Thus, there is a plethora of opportunities to find cheap flights. The London airports - Heathrow, Gatwick and Standsted serve as hubs for many airlines that are internationally renowned. In addition to Great Britain’s flagship carrier - British Airways, a very large number of international airlines such as KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, SAS, Austrian Airlines, Nippon Airlines, etc. operate regular services to and from London.
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London is served by five major airports: Heathrow (the largest), Gatwick, Stansted, London City and Luton.
Fifteen miles west of central London, Heathrow (LHR; 0870 000 0123; www.heathrowairport.com) is the world’s busiest international airport. It has five terminals. For information call the relevant terminal during the times listed below:
Terminal 1 (8745 5301; 6am-11pm)
Terminal 2 (8745 4599; 5am-11pm)
Terminal 3 (8759 3344; 5am-10.30pm)
Terminal 4 (8745 7460; 5am-11pm)
Each terminal has competitive currency-exchange facilities, information counters and accommodation desks. Two Piccadilly line tube stations serve the airport: one for Terminals 1, 2 and 3, the other for Terminal 4. There are also left-luggage facilities. The charge is £5.50 per item for 24 hours, up to a maximum of 90 days. All branches can forward baggage.
There are some 15 international hotels at or near Heathrow, should you be arriving or leaving particularly early or late. To reach them from Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 or 3, take the Heathrow Hotel Hoppa bus, which departs every 15 minutes 5.30am to 9pm, then every 30 minutes until 11.30pm (£4). The bus does not serve Terminal 4.
Here are options for getting to/from Heathrow Airport:
Black cabs A metered tripto/from central London (Oxford St) will cost around £55.
Heathrow Connect (0845 678 6975; www.heathrowconnect.com) Also travelling between Heathrow and Paddington station, this modern passenger service (one way/return £6.90/12.90, 28 minutes, every 30 minutes) makes several stops en route, in places such as Ealing and Southall. The first trains leave Heathrow at about 5.30am (6.15am Sunday) and the last service is around midnight. From Paddington, services leave between approximately 4.45am (6.15am Sunday) and 11pm.
Heathrow Express (0845 600 1515; www.heathrowexpress.com) This ultramodern train (one way/return £15.50/29, £1 off if booking online; 15 minutes, every 15 minutes) whisks passengers from Heathrow Central station (serving Terminals 1, 2 and 3) and Terminal 4 station to Paddington station. The Heathrow Central train runs approximately from 5.10am (in both directions) to between 11.30pm (from Paddington) and midnight (from the airport). To Terminal 4 takes an extra eight minutes.
National Express (0870 580 8080; www.nationalexpress.com) Buses 032, 035, 403, 412 and 501 (one way/return from £10/15, tickets valid three months; 45 minutes to 70 minutes, every 30 minutes to one hour) link Heathrow with Victoria coach station (7730 3466; 164 Buckingham Palace Rd SW1) about 50 times per day. The first bus leaves the Heathrow Central Bus station (at Terminals 1, 2 and 3) at 5.35am with the last departure at 9.35pm. The first bus leaves Victoria at 7.15am, the last at 11.30pm.
Underground (7222 1234; www.tube.tfl.gov.uk) The tube (one way adult/child £4/2, from central London one hour, every five to nine minutes) is the cheapest way of getting to Heathrow. It runs from approximately 5am (5.50am Sunday) to 11.45pm (10.50pm Sunday). You can buy tickets from machines in the baggage reclaim areas of the Heathrow terminals or in the station.
Located some 30 miles south of central London, Gatwick (LGW; 0870 000 2468; www.gatwickairport.com) is smaller and better organised than Heathrow. The North and South Terminals are linked by an efficient monorail service, with the journey time about two minutes. For information call the relevant terminal during the times listed below:
North Terminal (01293-502013; 5am-9pm)
South Terminal (01293-502014; 24hr)
Gatwick also has left-luggage facilities. The charge is £5.50 per item for 24 hours or part thereof, up to a maximum of 90 days.
Here are options for getting to/from Gatwick Airport:
Black cabs A metered tripto/from central London costs about £85.
Gatwick Express (0845 850 1530; www.gatwickexpress.com) Trains (one way/return £14.90/26.80, 30 minutes, every 15 minutes) link the station near the South Terminal with Victoria station. From the airport, there are regular services between 5.50am and 12.35am. From Victoria, they leave between 5am and 11.45pm. In both directions, there are four less-regular overnight services.
National Express (0870 580 8080; www.nationalexpress.com) Bus 025 (one way/return £6.60/12.20, tickets valid three months; 65 minutes to 85 minutes) runs from Brighton to Victoria coach station via Gatwick nearly 20 times per day. Services leave Gatwick approximately hourly between 5.15am and 10.15pm and operate from Victoria between 7am and 11.30pm, with one very early service at 3.30am).
Southern Trains (national rail enquiries 0845 748 4950; www.southernrailway.com) This service (one way/return £8.90/17.80, 45 minutes, every 15 to 30 minutes, every hour from midnight to 4am) runs from Victoria station to both terminals.
Thameslink service (national rail enquiries 0845 748 4950; www.thameslink.co.uk) This service (one way/return £8.90/17, 70 minutes) runs through King’s Cross, Farringdon and London Bridge train stations.
London’s third-busiest international gateway, Stansted (STN; 0870 000 0303; www.stanstedairport.com) is 35 miles northeast of central London, heading towards Cambridge. It’s become Europe’s fastest-growing airport thanks to no-frills carriers Ryanair and easyJet, which use it as a hub. With many services to central and eastern Europe, it was also boosted by the expansion of the EU in 2004.
Here are options for getting to/from Stansted Airport:
Black cabs A metered tripto/from central London costs £105.
National Express (0870 580 8080; www.nationalexpress.com) Coaches run around the clock, offering some 120 services per day. The A6 runs to Victoria coach station (one way/return £10/17, one hour 45 minutes, every 15 to 20 minutes) via North London(£8/15, one hour). The A9 runs to Stratford (£8/15, 45 minutes, every 30 minutes), from where you can catch a Jubilee line tube (20 minutes) into central London. The A7 runs via Stratford to Victoria between approximately midnight and 5am.
Stansted Express (0845 850 0150; www.standstedexpress.com) This service (one way/return £15/25, 45 minutes, every 15 to 30 minutes) links the airport and Liverpool St station. From the airport the first train leaves at 5.30am (6am Saturday and Sunday), the last just before midnight. Trains depart Liverpool St station from 4.30am (5am Saturday and Sunday) to 11.30pm. If you need to connect with the tube, change at Tottenham Hale for the Victoria line or stay on to Liverpool St station for the Central line. Some early services do not stop at Tottenham Hale. Stansted Express also operates a night coachservice (one way/return £15/25, one hour, every 30 minutes) between the last train and the next morning’s first service. Services depart Liverpool St between 2.30am and 4.30am. From the airport, they leave between midnight and 4am. They do not stop at Tottenham Hale.
London city airport
Its proximity to central London, 6 miles to its west, and to the commercial district of the Docklands, means London City Airport (LCY; 7646 0000; www.londoncityairport.com) is predominantly a business airport, although it does also serve holiday travellers with its 22 Continental European and eight national destinations.
Here are options for getting to/from London City Airport:Black cabs A metered trip to/from central London costs about £25.
Docklands Light Railway (DLR; 7363 9700; www.tfl.gov.uk/dlr) The Docklands Light Railway stops at London City Airport (£4). The journey to Bank takes 20 minutes, and trains go every 10 minutes from 5.30am to 12.30am Monday to Saturday, and 7am to 11.30pm Sunday.
A smallish airport some 35 miles north of London, Luton (LTN; 01582-405100; www.london-luton.co.uk) caters mainly for cheap charter flights, though the discount airline easyJet operates scheduled services from here.
Here are options for getting to/from Luton Airport:Black cabs A metered tripto/from central London costs around £100.
Green Line bus 757 (0870 608 7261; www.greenline.co.uk) Buses to Luton (one way/return £10.50/15, one hour) run from Buckingham Palace Rd south of Victoria station, leaving approximately every half-hour from 9.30am to 8pm, with hourly services between 8pm and midnight and one or two staggered services before 9.30am.
Thameslink (national rail enquiries 0845 748 4950; www.thameslink.co.uk) Trains (off-peak one way/return £11.10/20.60, 30 to 40 minutes, every six to 15 minutes 7am to 10pm) run from King’s Cross and other central London stations to Luton Airport Parkway station, from where an airport shuttle bus will take you to the airport in eight minutes.
London is served by nearly every international airline, most with offices in the city.
Aer Lingus (0870 876 5000; www.aerlingus.com)
Aeroflot (7355 2233; www.aeroflot.co.uk)
Air Canada (0871 220 1111; www.aircanada.com)
Air France (0870 142 4343; www.airfrance.com/uk)
Air New Zealand (0800 028 4149; www.airnewzealand.co.uk)
Alitalia (0870 544 8259; www.alitalia.com)
American Airlines (0845 778 9789; www.aa.com)
BMI (0870 607 0555; www.flybmi.com)
British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com)
Brussels Airlines (0905 609 5609; www.brusselsairlines.com)
Cathay Pacific (8834 8888; www.cathaypacific.com)
Continental Airlines (0845 607 6760; www.continental.com)
Delta Air Lines (0845 600 0950; www.delta.com)
easyJet (0905 560 7777, per min £1; www.easyjet.com)
El Al (7121 1400; www.elal.com)
Emirates (0870 243 2222; www.emirates.com/uk)
Fly Be (British European; 0871 522 6100; www.flybe.com)
Iberia (0870 609 0500; www.iberia.com)
Icelandair (0845 758 1111; www.icelandair.net)
KLM (0870 243 0541; www.klm.com)
Lufthansa (0845 773 7747; www.lufthansa.co.uk)
Olympic Airways (0870 606 0460; www.olympicairways.com)
Qantas Airlines (0845 774 7767; www.qantas.co.uk)
Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com)
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS; 0870 6072 7727; www.scandinavian.net)
Singapore Airlines (0844 800 2380; www.singaporeair.com)
South African Airways (0870 747 1111; www.flysaa.com)
TAP Air Portugal (0845 601 0932; www.tap-airportugal.co.uk)
Thai Airways International (7491 7953, 0870 606 0911; www.thaiair.com)
Turkish Airlines (7766 9333; www.thy.com)
United Airlines (0845 844 4777; www.ual.com)
Virgin Atlantic (0870 574 7747; www.virgin-atlantic.com)
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