In total there are six main airports that service the great city of London: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Southend and City. While the latter two are still pretty important we're choosing to focus on the first four for the sake of this piece, and more specifically, we're looking at the things we enjoy about them - because sometimes, choosing to look on the negative side of things can get a little dull.
Before we hear the outcry of thousands who flood the comments with the negative side of things, let's just put this out there as a disclaimer: we know they aren't perfect. These four airports do indeed have a parade of issues that need to be resolved in order to improve their overall quality, but for the most part, it feels like people tend to go a bit 'over the top' when referencing the things that are going poorly.
You could say that we, in turn, are being too overly optimistic, but you need that in order to balance things out. London is a big city and while not all of these airports are extremely close to the centre, the fact that there's so many of them should tell you all that you need to know about how efficient and important they are in the grand scheme of things.
Travelling isn't for everyone, and we can appreciate that, so we're here to try and put your mind at ease prior to you flying either out of or into these airports. Of course, we aren't assuming that you're all going to visit London throughout the course of your lifetime, but you definitely should.
19 HEATHROW: The Flagship - The Main Man
Heathrow Airport is the 'king of the hill' so to speak when it comes to London-based airports. It's the biggest, it's the baddest, and it's almost something that you feel like you should tick off your bucket list at some point - even though some people will consider that to be a little bit sad.
Regardless, there's something extra special about visiting the flagship airport for any given country because they tend to go that extra mile in order to try and make you feel more important. That may be an ego thing, but it certainly has a good impact on how people view the airport as a whole.
18 GATWICK: Two Terminals - Weirdly Useful
While it can sometimes be viewed as a hassle to have more than one terminal at any given airport, with Gatwick, they divide it up pretty well. Depending on where you're travelling to or what kind of airline you're travelling with, there's a clear indication as to which is which.
Again, it's not overwhelmingly important to a lot of people, but they make it as clear as they possibly can regarding whether or not you need to be in the North or the South. Plus, for the airport geeks out there, you'll want to contrast and compare the two in order to see what they're both like.
17 STANSTED: Good Shops - Lots To Do
Contrary to popular belief, Stansted Airport isn't all that bad. Sure, it's annoying that they no longer allow customers to sleep during the night (which is one of the reasons why it's such a popular airport), but we digress - the rest of what they have to offer isn't all that bad.
Something we really like is that once you've made your way through security, there are plenty of great shops to walk around in order to kill some time before your flight. You can always just wait it out and charge your phone, but Stansted is actually quite useful if you want to shop around.
16 LUTON: Efficient Shuttle Bus - Very Necessary
Most people who have gone to Luton Airport will know that the train station doesn't actually stop at the airport itself. Instead, you arrive at the Parkway, and although you could probably walk it, we wouldn't recommend that. Instead, we'd suggest that you use the shuttle bus, which is always waiting right outside the station to take you on the short five-minute journey towards the airport.
It's really useful, you can include it in the price of your train ticket if you select the right option, and it's just efficient. The work is pretty much already done once you arrive.
15 HEATHROW: Easy Travel - It Always Helps
Because most of the options we've listed are located outside of the centre of London, they can be a bit of a hassle to get to sometimes. With Heathrow, however, it doesn't matter where you're driving from or getting the train from, because it's the easiest option to get to by far.
The parking options are vast, you can arrive in good time, and it's just generally an easier experience. Don't get us wrong, traffic is always a possibility especially if you're on the road at peak times, but that's never going to serve as being 'too much' of an obstacle, right?
14 GATWICK: Comfy Seats - Night Night
As well as a Wetherspoons that's available to enter before you go through security, Gatwick is also home to several really comfy sofas and chairs - as well as great power outlets. The staff never really complain about people getting a few hours of sleep, which is obviously integral if you have an early morning flight to deal with.
Every airport deals with the sleeping issue differently, but with Gatwick, it feels like they've just about managed to get it spot on.
13 STANSTED: Cheap, Cheap, Cheap - Budget Is Best
Flying can be really expensive, which is understandable because visiting another country or destination like this is something of a luxury. We can appreciate that and we totally understand why some families and solo travellers choose to do things domestically instead.
Alas, one thing that nobody can deny is that Stansted Airport has made the possibility of travelling abroad an even greater reality for many. The majority of cheap flights out of London that you'll find on Skyscanner are associated with Stansted, and long may that continue.
If they didn't have this, then we'd worry ever so slightly about their sustainability in the long run.
12 LUTON: Friendly Staff - A Rarity
Friendly staff in airports are hard to come by, and we somewhat understand why. It can be a difficult and tedious job as you have to do the same thing over and over again throughout the course of any given day, so in some respects, we're inclined to give them a break.
Still, that doesn't impact the Luton Airport staff all that much, who appear to be much happier and more polite on average than the other three alternatives. That could be a complete coincidence, obviously, and we may have just caught them on a good day, but we're choosing to believe it's a consistent thing.
11 HEATHROW: Variety - Heathrow? Yay!
We've alluded to the fact that Heathrow is big, but we're not sure you can grasp just how big. It's one of the busiest airports in the world and as such, there's a lot to see and do there. From one terminal to another you'll be able to uncover something new, and we can only imagine just how incredible a game of hide and seek would be there (but, obviously, that isn't a possibility - which is a shame).
We'd suggest trying to flying out of and back into every single terminal if you're a frequent flyer, because we can guarantee that you'd have some 'compare and contrast' notes to keep you busy. So, with that in mind, make sure you don't judge this book by its cover too soon.
10 GATWICK: Easy Shuttle Train - Quick, Run!
Being able to get from point A to point B is, naturally, the way in which travel works. Well, as we mentioned in an earlier entry, there are two terminals at Gatwick which can lead to some confusion for folks who don't read their tickets properly - and trust us when we tell you that it happens more than you may think.
Thankfully, there's a really quick shuttle train that gets you from the North to the South and vice versa in around two to three minutes. That's an insanely quick commute given how long it would take to walk by comparison, and it's one of the reasons why we enjoy travelling out of Gatwick so much.
9 STANSTED: Close To Liverpool Street - Good Old London
Stansted is located a little bit further east than most commuters would care for, especially if they use the airport on a regular basis. Still, that doesn't stop many from using their services from week to week, and one of the primary reasons for that is how close it is to London Liverpool Street station.
Sure, it's still 40 minutes away, but that's nothing in the grand scheme of some of the alternatives. Plus, Liverpool Street is pretty central, meaning that you'll be able to explore London and everything it has to offer less than an hour after you step off of your flight.
8 LUTON: Good Pub - Relax Before The Flight
We were tempted to call this a 'Wetherspoon's purely for the sake of stereotypes, but The Smithfield stands alone as its own entity and we can admire that. It's a great pub with some really cool theming, and it makes up for some of the perceived shortcomings that other travellers have when it comes to London Luton.
You could literally spend a good few hours here before your flight and nobody would bat an eyelid, especially if there's a big group of you.
Example: we saw twenty lads descend on The Smithfield before heading off on their stag do, and they seemed to have a great time without getting too rowdy.
7 HEATHROW: The Big Planes - Off On An Adventure
Heathrow is where the big boys play in London when it comes to the major airlines, and we're so on board for that. There are a lot of people reading this who probably won't geek out over these kinds of things, but trust us when we tell you that a good plane can entirely impact your journey.
From Virgin to Emirates and beyond there's a sea of great airlines that go out of and into Heathrow, for one very simple reason: it's the head honcho of London-based travel, and there's nothing wrong with embracing that. We're big fans, and we can't wait to see what they do next in terms of expansions (as long as it's viable).
6 GATWICK: easyJet Base - The Top Budget Airline
From the big boys to the underdogs, we've arrived at easyJet - with their largest base being located at Gatwick Airport. Their headquarters are indeed in Luton, but in terms of where they fly out of most frequently, Gatwick takes the gold medal.
Which is a good thing, too, because not only do easyJet offer great rates on flights, but their service is also ten times better than the nearest alternative - Ryanair. We aren't trying to start a debate between the two or anything like that, but the differences have been well noted for quite some time now. So, yeah, pick easyJet, guys.
5 STANSTED: The European Network - Here, There, Everywhere
No airport travels out to quite as many 'alternative' locations around Europe as Stansted, and that goes for the entirety of the United Kingdom. In many ways, they've actually, bizarrely enough, been able to put some places 'on the map' so to speak by opening up the possibility of travelling there from London.
If you're ever in need of a quick weekend getaway then we'd highly suggest that you make the trip from Stansted to somewhere dramatically underrated in Europe, because you may just uncover a gem that few others have discovered.
If not, at least you get some time off work and some great European beer.
4 LUTON: Nice And Compact - Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Much like Bristol Airport, London Luton is quite small in comparison to some of the more 'notable' airports around London and England. With that in mind, please, trust us when we tell you that bigger doesn't always mean better - especially when it comes to airports.
Luton has everything you could want from shops to restaurants, and you don't have to walk miles in order to get to them. Some travellers don't mind doing so as they consider it to be 'part of the journey' but come on now, you're going away to relax, right?*
*Unless you're on a business trip, in which case we feel your pain.
3 HEATHROW: Fewer Issues - It’s Just The Truth
We don't know whether it's because Heathrow is bigger or just because there's more money that is pumped into it on a year by year basis, but it seems to be much more 'airtight' in terms of any common issues associated with air travel. The planes aren't usually as delayed, security is more efficient, and you're less likely to experience any kind of emergency.
Sure, you probably have to pay a little bit more for the service, but that tends to be the case with most 'grand' things in life. You get what you pay for and with Heathrow, we wholeheartedly believe that you're getting a well-rounded service from top to bottom.
2 GATWICK: Best For Package Holidays - Great Deals
Package holidays are great, especially if you're looking to save both some money and time - because the hassle of arranging both a hotel and your flights can be difficult given the many complications that could come into play.
Gatwick, out of all four options, tends to be the most available airport for these kinds of flights, and thus, you get plenty of options regarding where you want to go and what kind of prices you're willing to pay. So if you're eyeing up this holiday in the not so distant future, we'd highly recommend you tick Gatwick above any other London airports.
1 LUTON: The Footpath - We’re On Our Way
There's not a great shot of this entry, but we wanted to give it a shout out. While the surrounding area of Luton Airport may not be all too spectacular, there's a footpath that was built many years ago in order to create a simple passage for travellers who needed to walk from the many hotel options to the airport itself.
It only takes 10-15 minutes to make the journey, and it's a much, much safer option than many other airports have around the UK. It feels like there's a real build up to you actually entering the airport, and yes, we can fully appreciate just how nerdy that sounds.