The city of London is famous for ridiculous amounts of traffic and lots of hustle and bustle, so when you are trying to fly away and enjoy the more tropical regions of the world, getting to an airport might seem like a hassle as journey planning becomes necessary and you then have to leave extra early to catch the flight on time.
It is a good point to note however that, Heathrow Airport, although one of the most popular airports in London, isn’t the only place where you can fly from so as a handy guide here is a list of the other airports in the capital and some general information on them. You might just end up flying from a different airport next time if it works out better!
So you might ask; how many airports are there in London?
There are six major airports in London; Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Southend and London City Airport.
Based in the London Borough of Hillingdon and commonly known as Heathrow Airport or by its longer name, London Heathrow Airport, Heathrow is the busiest airport in Europe and the seventh busiest airport in the world due to its size.
The airport actually started as the Great West Aerodrome in 1929 and was a small grass airfield but later changed the name to Heathrow after the hamlet it was situated in; it has expanded since its humble beginnings. The surrounding area was originally full of farms and fields and the lack of infrastructure made it perfect for expanding the airport. During World War II the airport was undergoing expansion to be used for military use to send troops to the Far East, but when the war ended it opened up for civilian use, although the construction wasn’t completed on time.
London Heathrow Airport is now massive and is used by over 80 airlines that fly to 185 destinations. It has one cargo terminal and four passenger terminals. In the 1950s Heathrow had six runways in the shape of a hexagram but as the required length of runways has increased, it now has two facing east and west.
The airport has superb facilities, with not only restaurants, cafes and gift shops selling everything from luxury perfumes to kitsch London souvenirs, but at Heathrow Airport you will also find chaplains from a range of faiths and a multi-faith prayer room plus a room for counselling in each terminal. Heathrow even has its press team with photographers and a TV crew!
Gatwick Airport is the second busiest airport in the UK and the ninth busiest in Europe it also started as an aerodrome in the 1920s but the first terminal, dubbed “The Beehive”, came to use in 1935 as the Air Ministry had by then approved of commercial flights from the airport.
London Gatwick Airport has two terminals and two runways but due to both the runways being built fairly close together, the second one is only used when the first one is not in use, making Gatwick a single-runway airport (Gatwick is the second busiest airport in the world to operate from one runway).
There are many great facilities in the airport ranging from lounges to on-site hotels and a multi-faith room prayer room. Currency can also be exchanged at Gatwick, perfect for if you are ready to fly and haven’t got the currency you need for your travels yet.
Based in the London Borough of Newham, London City Airport has a single runway and a two-storey terminal, the airport isn’t as large as other ones in London. Compared to the other airports serving London, it is a fairly new one and was built in 1986. Due to there being limited space available in the London Docklands area not a large amount of people use the London City Airport, it suffices with a single terminal but does get very busy during peak hours so it’s a good idea to properly plan the journey to avoid unwanted delays. For those residing in East London, it's a convenient little airport for getting quick flights out to Europe and beyond.
Aside from being a great place to fly from, London City Airport has various exciting events that make it a great place to visit when you aren’t travelling. Over the years there have been air shows at this airport, check the London City Airport official website for more details on their events so you don’t miss out on anything.
Stansted, or London Stansted Airport based in Uttlesford, Essex, is the largest base for Ryanair which is an airline that offers flights for budget prices. Planes fly to over 200 destinations (in Europe, Africa and the Middle East) from Stansted and the airport is the fourth busiest airport in the UK.
It was originally known as Stansted Mountfitchet and was opened in 1943 to be used by the RAF and United States Army Air Forces as a military airfield. The RAF then used it for storage purposes at the end of World War II but then switched to high-cost commercial use in 1966.
Stansted has one terminal, one large runway and flies passengers to over 190 destinations and even caters for private flights. Over the years the London Stansted Airport has had many expansions and has improved its facilities a lot with on-site hotels plus a vast car park.
Luton Airport, which was originally known as Luton International Airport, was opened in 1938 but was to be used by the RAF as a military airbase during World War II. The Luton-based airport reopened for public commercial use in 1952 and then became a very popular place to fly from with a fifth of all holiday flights in the UK flying from the London Luton Airport.
The airport has a single runway that can operate in poor visibility due to the Instrument Landing System. Luton has a double-storey terminal with 62 check-in desks. There are also many shops and restaurants to keep you entertained or to get a bite to eat while you wait for the flight too.
Southend Airport based in the Rochford District of Essex was the third busiest in London during the 1960s and 70s until Stansted Airport began to receive more passengers. The London Southend Airport has a very interesting history and was used by the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, but was closed after the war and used as farmland until the 1930s when it was reopened for use by the RAF for World War II. It then switched to commercial use. The Airport has a single terminal, runway and many facilities such as coffee shops, lounge, retail shops and duty-free.
So that's a round-up of all of the six airports serving London, they are all located in different areas so it’s easy to reach an airport regardless of where you live in London.