You wouldn’t believe it, but there are six airports to choose from when travelling to London. Long-haul flights tend to arrive at London Heathrow or Gatwick Airport, with the other four serving mainly European passengers.

Most airlines fly to one or the other and often you will have a choice when choosing your flights. People often ask me which is the best one to fly into, so here’s a little guide that answers that question.

Is London Heathrow or Gatwick Closer to Central London?

When it comes to driving distance, London Heathrow is 26 kilometres to the west of Central London. By comparison, London Gatwick airport is about 45 kilometres south of the city.

Those driving to Central London would want to arrive into London Heathrow as it is closer. Taxis are extremely expensive in the United Kingdom, so the most cost effective method is to use mass transit.

What Are The Rail Options?

Both airports feature rail services to get you into the city. When travelling into London Heathrow, the Heathrow Express train is the fastest way from the airport to the city, taking just 15 minutes.

Alternatively you can take the London Underground or Tube. Piccadilly line trains run frequently from the airport to the city, taking around 54 minutes to somewhere like Leicester Square. Using the underground is generally much cheaper, however if you book the Heathrow Express in advance it can be almost as cost effective.

You take the Gatwick Express train from London Gatwick’s South Terminal to Victoria station in London. This takes between 27 and 31 minutes, depending on the service. Standard Southern Trains services also operate non-stop on this route, taking the same amount of time and often charging less.

Airline and Airport Lounges

When it comes to airline lounges, there are few at London Gatwick. Emirates and Virgin Atlantic operate lounges in the North Terminal, while British Airways operate in the South Terminal. There are many other paid options available too.

On the other hand, London Heathrow is positively festooned with lounges. In Terminal 2 there are offerings from Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and United.

Those using Terminal 3 are spoiled for choice with lounges from American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic. Terminal 4 features facilities from El Al, Gulf Air, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways. Finally, Terminal 5 features a myriad of British Airways lounges.

Since Heathrow is geared more towards business passengers and Gatwick more towards leisure passengers, this difference is perhaps not so surprising. Naturally there are also a number of paid lounges in each terminal.

Overall Thoughts

Whether you choose to fly from London Heathrow or Gatwick has a lot to do with what you’re doing. However, it must be noted that air fares to and from London Gatwick are usually notably cheaper than those out of Heathrow.

Most people choose rail travel to get to and from the airport in the UK, with people predominantly using the London Underground out of Heathrow. The thing is, it actually takes longer to get from Heathrow to London using this method. At Gatwick you must take the non-stop trains, which get to Central London in half the time.

As a result, Gatwick comes up trumps on price and transfer times in most circumstances. Heathrow is strong in the sheer number of airlines serving the airport. However, if you’re travelling to the UK with your final destination as London, Gatwick is an excellent choice. Those connecting will have more options out of Heathrow.

Of course, some may prefer airports like London City, London Stansted, London Luton and London Southend, but international services are sparse to non-existent at these facilities. Which London airport do you prefer and why? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Kenneth Iwelumo on via Wikimedia Commons.
With thanks to Air Travel Genius for the London Heathrow and London Gatwick lounge lists.