Airports of London

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London's six international airports

The metropolitan area of London, England is served by six international airports and several smaller airports. Together, they make the busiest airport system in the world by passenger numbers and the second busiest by aircraft movements.[1] In 2011, all six airports handled 133,709,327 passengers. The London airports handle 60% of all the United Kingdom's air traffic. There are 14 domestic destinations served by the airports, and 396 international destinations.

International airports[edit]

International airports in the London airport system (2011)[2]
Airport Passengers[3][4] Change
from 2011[3][4]
Cargo (Tonnes) Change
from 2010
Aircraft
Movements[5]
Change
from 2011
Percentage
of passengers
Distance
to London
Heathrow 70,037,417 Increase0.9% 1,484,351 Increase1% 475,176 Decrease1.2% 51.88% 22 km / 14 mi
Gatwick 34,235,982 Increase1.7% 88,085 Decrease15% 256,987 Decrease1.6% 25.36% 48 km / 30 mi
Stansted 17,472,699 Decrease3.2% 202,593 Increase0% 143,511 Decrease3.2% 12.94% 64 km / 40 mi
Luton 9,617,697 Increase1.1% 27,905 Decrease3% 96,797 Decrease0.8% 7.12% 57 km / 35 mi
London City 3,016,664 Increase0.8%
-
-
70,781 Increase2.9% 2.23% 11 km / 7 mi
Southend 617,027 Increase1353.9% 6 Increase100% 27,715 Increase8.8% 0.45% 64 km / 40 mi
Total 134,997,486 Increase 1.02% 1,802,939
-
1,070,967 Decrease 0.11% 100%
-

Heathrow[edit]

Located in the London Borough of Hillingdon, Heathrowmap1 is by far the largest of London's airports, and considered the international gateway into the United Kingdom. Heathrow has 5 terminals, and two parallel runways. Due to the location in London's western suburbs, Heathrow cannot expand (especially since the Cameron ministry scrapped the proposals for a third runway on 12 May 2010[6]), and as a result consistently runs at 99% capacity. This has led to Heathrow being one of the worst rated airports in the world, with lengthy border control queues being a recent problem.[7] The airport is connected to Great Britain's motorway network via the M4 and M25 motorways.

In April 2012, Heathrow announced that for the first time in history it handled 70 million passengers in a calendar year,[8] making it the third busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger numbers, after Atlanta and Beijing. It is also the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger numbers, as well as the busiest airport in United Kingdom and the busiest in Europe, again, both in terms of passenger numbers.

Heathrow serves six continents around the world, and is the base for the flag carrier British Airways in Terminal 5. While it does serve short-haul flights, it is London's hub for long distance flights, with it being the most popular destination for the whole of the United States of America, with 13 million passengers. However, because of its high capacity rates, Heathrow has failed to serve cities in the newly industrialized countries, like China, falling away from European bases like Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Paris.

Gatwick[edit]

Main article: Gatwick Airport

Located in West Sussex, Gatwickmap2 is the second busiest airport in the London metropolitan region, and is the busiest single runway airport in the world. It is currently the second busiest airport in the United Kingdom after Heathrow, and the 10th busiest in Europe. It is the second base for British Airways, serving Europe and the Caribbean. It is also the base for low-cost carriers like Monarch, easyJet and Flybe.

The airport consists of two terminals, North and South, is connected to the motorway network via the M23, and has its own railway station, with Gatwick Express serving Victoria station in Central London.

Stansted[edit]

Located in Essex, Stanstedmap3 is London's third busiest airport, being the fourth busiest in the United Kingdom, behind Manchester Airport, 26th busiest in Europe, and is one of the primary operational bases for Europe's largest low-cost carrier, Ryanair. Stansted destinations are largely in Europe, however in the past it has served destinations further afield, like Kuala Lumpur. It is the home of Harrods Aviation, allowing VIP aircraft to land there, such as Air Force One carrying the President of the United States, Barack Obama, in 2009.[9]

Luton[edit]

Main article: London Luton Airport

Located in Bedfordshire, Luton Airportmap4 is London's fourth largest airport, the fifth busiest in the United Kingdom, and the 42nd busiest in Europe. It is the headquarters of the low cost carrier easyJet.

City[edit]

Main article: London City Airport

Located in the London Borough of Newham City Airportmap5 is situated in London's disused Docklands, and is the closest to Central London. As a result, no large aircraft (e.g. Boeing 747s or Airbus A380s) are permitted to use the airport, which initially prevented all long-haul flights. However, since 2011, British Airways introduced a flight to New York JFK, via Shannon, using an Airbus A318.

The City Airport, only being a couple of miles from Canary Wharf, is often used by businessmen, with many destinations to Northern Europe and across the United Kingdom. It is unable to expand much due to the docks on either sides, and noise pollution for nearby residential areas.

Until the extenstion of the Docklands Light Railway in 2006, City Airport had poor connections to London, and still is rather poorly connected to the London road network.

Southend[edit]

Located in Essex, Southend Airportmap6 expanded commercial air transport operations to destinations in Ireland in 2011, and to Europe in 2012 when easyJet commenced operations using the brand new terminal and train station. Southend claims it only takes 15 minutes to get through arrivals from plane to train with hand luggage. It was once the third busiest airport in the United Kingdom.

Other civil airports[edit]

Locations of OXF, LHR, LTN, LGW, LCY, STN, SEN and LYX.

A number of other airports also serve the London area.

Open airports[edit]

The following are mainly used by general aviation flights.

Closed airports[edit]

Airports are listed at their current borough, although the area may have been outside of London at the time of construction.

Royal Air Force stations[edit]

There were several Royal Air Force stations in London. This list excludes those that are classed as non-flying stations.

Operational[edit]

Non-operational[edit]

Station are listed at their current borough, although the area may have been outside of London at the time of construction.

Proposed airports[edit]

Thames Estuary[edit]

Due to London's high capacity, in particular London Heathrow, Boris Johnson, London's mayor, and Sir Norman Forster have both brought up plans to have a new airport built, either on a man-made island in the Thames Estuary, or on the Isle of Grain in North Kent. Foster's proposed Thames Hub Airport would be very similar to the design of Hong Kong International Airport and Qatar's Hamad International Airport. The plans to have an airport able to handle 110 million passengers a year would require the closure of Heathrow, and probably make the new airport the busiest in the world.

The plans have met with opposition from some people living nearby warning the airport would create a significant increase in bird strikes.[10] Other people and local businesses, recognising the depressed levels of economic activity in North Kent, have been supportive and argue that London needs a new airport in order to be able to compete in the world.

Traffic and Statistics[edit]

Passengers 2001-2011[edit]

Passenger graph showing individual airports
Graph showing cargo, passengers, and aircraft movements from 1990-2011
Year Aircraft
movements
Percentage
change
Passenger
numbers
Percentage
change
Cargo
tonnes
Percentage
change
2001 1,074,773[11] Decrease 1 113,790,381 Decrease 2 1,649,437
2002 954,570[12] Decrease 11.2 117,138,188 Increase 2.9 1,682,693 Increase 2.0
2003 967,270[13] Increase 1.3 120,493,239 Increase 2.9 1,667,803 Decrease 0.9
2004 1,005,256[14] Increase 3.8 128,933,753 Increase 7.0 1,795,326 Increase 7.6
2005 1,038,241[15] Increase 3.2 133,836,827 Increase 3.8 1,788,671 Decrease 0.4
2006 1,060,831[16] Increase 5.4 137,192,958 Increase 2.5 1,717,360 Decrease 4.0
2007 1,087,703[17] Increase 2.5 139,950,593 Increase 2.0 1,724,040 Increase 0.4
2008 1,077,448[18] Decrease 0.9 137,106,041 Decrease 2.0 1,743,028 Increase 1.1
2009 1,003,616[19] Decrease 6.9 130,307,938 Decrease 5.0 1,563,783 Decrease 10.3
2010 954,371[20] Decrease 4.9 127,353,419 Decrease 2.3 1,808,005 Increase 15.6
2011 1,072,126[5] Increase 12.4 133,709,327 Increase 5.0 1,802,939[21] Decrease 0.3

Busiest routes[edit]

In total, there were 30 international destinations from London, and another 3 domestic routes, that handled more than 1 million passengers in 2011:

Destination Number of passengers
 Ireland, Dublin 3,705,696
 Netherlands, Amsterdam 3,026,082
 USA, New York JFK 2,700,613
 UAE, Dubai 2,506,613
 Spain, Madrid 2,496,921
 Turkey, İstanbul 2,376,284
  Switzerland, Geneva 2,218,593
 Spain, Malaga 1,814,682
 Germany, Frankfurt 1,678,536
 Spain, Barcelona 1,661,301
 Denmark, Copenhagen 1,656,818
  Switzerland, Zurich 1,642,959
 Germany, Munich 1,546,441
 Italy, Rome Fiumicino 1,530,810
 France, Paris Charles de Gaulle 1,526,030
 Hong Kong, Hong Kong 1,412,749
 Spain, Alicante 1,302,237
 USA, Los Angeles 1,299,118
 USA, Chicago 1,207,424
 USA, New York Newark 1,197,847
 Spain, Palma de Mallorca 1,189,761
 Canada, Toronto 1,186,783
 Portugal, Faro 1,186,358
 Sweden, Stockholm Arlanda 1,185,848
 Hungary, Budapest 1,145,011
 France, Nice 1,134,396
 Singapore, Singapore 1,069,706
 Portugal, Lisbon 1,069,055
 USA, Boston 1,031,320
 India, Delhi 1,003,598

Heathrow Airport is a major hub for flights across the North Atlantic. In 2011, 11% of all north Atlantic flights originated or terminated at Heathrow, more than Paris and Frankfurt combined, and Heathrow is the European terminus for 11 of the 25 busiest north Atlantic routes.

The busiest long-haul route in the world is between London (Heathrow and Gatwick) and New York (JFK and Newark), with a total of 3,898,460 passengers travelling between the two cities in 2011.[citation needed]

Maps[edit]

References[edit]