Heathrow need-to-knows: the ins and outs of flying to and from London


If you’re looking to travel to London from overseas, you may not be aware there are six airports that serve the UK capital; so, there’s a chance that you’ll fly into any of them, depending where you’re flying from and which airline you choose. These six – and where they’re located – are as follows: London City (East London); London Gatwick (south east of London); London Luton (north); London Southend (east); London Stansted (north-) and, of course, London Heathrow (south-west).

Airport terminal


In terms of where you plan on staying in or near the capital, getting to and from any of the London airports is something you’ll have to consider before you travel. Don’t forget that this city is one of the world’s major metropolises; aside from London City airport (which few major flights serve, in any case), none of its airports are actually within the city limits and all are a few miles out. All, however, are terrifically well served by public transport; not least mainline train links. Heathrow is even served by the London Underground (Tube) network via its Piccadilly line, which will take you right into the heart of Central London.


So, if five of the six airports are actually located just outside the capital and the transport links are excellent, might it actually be better to choose accommodation near the airport into and out of which you fly and, from here, catch a (Tube) train in and out of the city? Well, there’s a good argument for this, certainly. For example, should yours be Heathrow – and London’s major airport is arguably Heathrow – there are many excellent, well-appointed and well-reviewed hotels in Hounslow (the nearest town), such as the Grand Park hotel Heathrow.

Reputation and reviews

Yes, it’s true; just as with everything else nowadays, every airport (including every one serving London) is party to online reviews and publicly expressed opinions on their quality of service, reliability, timeliness, accessibility and so on and so forth. Now, it could be that while you’re in the process of booking a flight with a particular airline to London, you’ll go elsewhere online and discover a number of opinions expressed about the airport you’re due to fly in and out of that are negative about or simply don’t recommend the place. The thing to bear in mind here, however, is that the experience of a particular airport is individual; there are many factors that determine what they experience will be like, a good number of which may have nothing to do with your time spent there (e.g. flight/ airline delays due to inclement weather). So, our advice is not to worry and book a flight for any of the airports serving London.


Returning to the theme of Internet browsing, you’ll find many sources online that suggest average times to expect to get through customs at each of the London airports. Now, you may find your experience matches what one of these websites advises, but the truth is that it’s fairly foolhardy to assume there’s a general timeframe for getting through customs at any airport anywhere in the world. What you should do then is to get to the airport in plenty of time (giving yourself as much time as your booking suggests you to) and prepare to be patient – that always helps!