Three London Airports in Three Days
I recently arrived at London Heathrow on a Saturday, flew out of Gatwick on the same day, flew back into Stansted three days later, and then went back to Heathrow to get home. Whew.
Some quick impressions and observations:
Heathrow: Know which terminal you're in before you go -- find out at here -- especially if you're taking mass transit. (Virgin Atlantic and United operate out of Terminal 3, and British Airways uses Terminal 4.) If you're going straight into central London, don't bother paying all that money for the Heathrow Express. Take the Picadilly Line: It takes a little longer to get into London, but it costs about $8 compared with $29 for the Heathrow Express. By the way, you can plan your transportation routes in advance by going to Journey Planner.
We arrived at Heathrow at about 7 a.m., took a train and bus to visit my daughter in Camberwell (south London), and then got to Gatwick to catch our 3 p.m. flight with plenty of time to spare. If you're going straight to Gatwick from Heathrow, the bus is the best bet - use the journey planner tool. An aside: Buses are cheaper and go just about everywhere throughout London.
On to Gatwick (28 miles south of central London): I have never been so hot, sweaty and uncomfortable in an airport. The place reminds me of an old-school crowded bus station. Friends explained that it was the start of the school holidays the day we arrived, so maybe I'm not giving it a fair shake, but it was a total free-for-all, with long lines at every restaurant, shop, restroom. The best was one packed-to-the-gills restaurant where ear-splitting techno dance music made life even less pleasant. Lots of charter flights use Gatwick, so huge groups of people form, blocking easy movement.
We flew Monarch, a discount airliner, to Alicante -- the backs of the seats were literally straight up and down, making me feel as if I were pitching forward. And nobody put their seats back -- felt like an unwritten rule, probably because you could break the knees of the guy behind you.
Stansted (located 30 miles northeast of London): On the way back from Alicante, we took Easyjet to Stansted. Much better experience, even if the flight attendants were dressed like prison road crews. Easyjet flight was comfortable. All discount airliners in Europe sell everything, including water and lottery tickets. I felt as if I were on the set of a QVC program. Stansted is clean, calm and easy to figure out. You have to get on a train to get to the main terminal, but it's much better than the Star Wars-like transport at Dulles.
Heathrow again: If you're flying out of Heathrow, check in online before you go. Give yourself plenty of time: three hours is not unreasonable. Don't panic at security lines - within 45 minutes, you'll be through.
Anyone have other thoughts on the London airports/discount airlines? Luton anyone?
By Carol Sottili |
February 23, 2007; 1:57 PM ET
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