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Airports of London

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The metropolitan area of London, England, United Kingdom, is served by six international airports and several smaller airports. Together, these airports constitute the busiest airport system in the world by passenger numbers and the second-busiest by aircraft movements.[1] In 2018, the six airports handled a total of 177,054,819 passengers. The London airports handle over 60% of all the UK's air traffic. The airports serve a total of 14 domestic destinations and 396 international destinations.

International airports

International airports in the London airport system[2]
Airport Airport codes Distance to
2018 totals Total of 2015
from 2011[5][6]
% of
Cargo (tonnes) Change
from 2010
from 2011
IATA ICAO Passengers Aircraft
2015 2011
City LCY EGLC 14 km (9 mi) 4,820,292 78,036 4,319,301 Increase 0.8% 2.78% 2.23%
70,781 Increase 2.9%
Heathrow LHR EGLL 26 km (16 mi) 80,102,017 480,339 74,985,748 Increase 0.9% 48.30% 51.88% 1,484,351 Increase 1% 475,176 Decrease 1.2%
Gatwick LGW EGKK 45 km (28 mi) 46,075,400 283,926 40,269,087 Increase 1.7% 25.94% 25.36% 88,085 Decrease 15% 256,987 Decrease 1.6%
Luton LTN EGGW 55 km (34 mi) 16,581,850 136,270 12,263,505 Increase 1.1% 7.90% 7.12% 27,905 Decrease 3% 96,797 Decrease 0.8%
Stansted STN EGSS 63 km (39 mi) 27,995,121 185,660 22,519,178 Decrease 3.2% 14.50% 12.94% 202,593 Increase 0% 143,511 Decrease 3.2%
Southend SEN EGMC 64 km (40 mi) 1,480,139 17,088 900,648 Increase 1,353.9% 0.58% 0.45% 6 Increase 100% 27,715 Increase 8.8%
Total 177,054,819 1,181,319 155,257,467 Increase 1.02% 100.00% 100.00% 1,802,939 1,070,967 Decrease 0.11%

City (LCY)


Located in the London Borough of Newham, London City Airportmap5 is situated in London's Docklands, four miles from Canary Wharf, and is the closest to central London, which limits its size—the airport has a single runway, which is very short. Furthermore, the airport has a steep approach at a 5.5° angle (as opposed to the usual 3 degrees).[8] As a result, only the smallest aircraft are permitted to use the airport, which initially prevented all long-haul flights. However, from 2009 to 2020, British Airways had operated a flight to New York–JFK, via Shannon, using an Airbus A318 – the largest aircraft that can be handled at the airport. The largest aircraft currently operating from the airport is the Airbus A220-100, slightly smaller than the Airbus A318,[citation needed] with increased range and capable of taking off from London City fully loaded. Its first commercial flight completed in August 2017 from Zürich.[9]

The airport is often used by business travellers, with many flights serving destinations across the UK and northern Europe. The airport cannot easily be expanded due to the docks on either side. It is also the only airport serving London which does not operate at night.

A light rail service from London City Airport DLR station, which adjoins the terminal building of London City Airport, links it (among many other stations) to the financial district of the City of London at Bank and Monument stations, which offer interchanges with London Underground.

Heathrow (LHR)

London Heathrow is the busiest airport in the UK and in Europe and one of the busiest in the world.

Located in the London Borough of Hillingdon, Heathrowmap1 is by far the largest of London's airports and considered the main gateway into the United Kingdom for non-European visitors. Heathrow has four terminals and two parallel runways. Due to the location in London's western suburbs, Heathrow has had trouble trying to expand, with various expansion projects being cancelled.[10] As a result, the airport consistently runs at over 99% capacity and is often included on lists of the worst-rated airports in the world.[11] However, on 1 July 2015 Heathrow's expansion plan was suggested as the best option by the Airport Commission and on 25 October 2016 a new northwest runway and terminal was approved by the Government.

The airport is connected to Great Britain's motorway network via the M4 and M25 motorways, to London Paddington station by Heathrow Express[12] and Elizabeth line trains and to other Central London destinations by London Underground trains on the Piccadilly line.

In April 2012 (before the 2012 Summer Olympics), Heathrow announced that for the first time in history it handled 70 million passengers in a calendar year,[13] making it the third busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger numbers, after Atlanta and Beijing–Capital. It also comes second behind Dubai–International in the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger numbers, as well as being the busiest airport in Europe by total passenger numbers.

Heathrow serves six continents around the world, and is the base for the flag carrier British Airways in Terminal 5. While it also serves short-haul flights, Heathrow is London's long-distance hub and is the most popular arrival point for flights from the United States of America (including New York–JFK), with 13 million passengers. However, because it is operating at capacity, Heathrow has failed to increase service to cities in the newly industrialised countries such as China, falling behind European bases like Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Paris–Charles de Gaulle.

Gatwick (LGW)

Side view of the North Terminal of Gatwick Airport

Located in West Sussex, Gatwickmap2 is the second-busiest airport in the United Kingdom, the eighth-busiest in Europe, and the second-busiest single-runway airport in the world. It handles flights to more destinations than any other UK airport[14] and is the main base of easyJet,[15] the UK's largest airline by number of passengers.[16] Also using it as a base are British Airways, Norse Atlantic Airways, TUI Airways and Wizz Air.

The airport has two terminals, North and South. It is connected to the motorway network via the M23 and has its own railway station, with Southern and Thameslink trains serving London Victoria and London Bridge stations respectively, as well as the dedicated Gatwick Express shuttle to and from London Victoria.

Luton (LTN)


Located in Bedfordshire, Luton Airportmap4 is London's fourth-largest airport, the fifth-busiest in the United Kingdom and the fourth-closest to central London, after Gatwick, Heathrow and City airports. The two airlines supplying most passenger capacity are the low-cost carriers, easyJet and Wizz Air.

Luton Airport Parkway railway station can be reached from London St Pancras in as little as 22 minutes via East Midlands Railway, while Thameslink is the primary operator, with slower but more frequent services. An automated people mover transit system, Luton DART, connects Luton Airport Parkway to the airport, a distance of just over a mile.[17]

Stansted (STN)

Aerial view of the main terminal and the satellite buildings of London Stansted Airport

Located in Essex, Stanstedmap3 is London's third-busiest airport, being the fourth-busiest in the United Kingdom, behind Manchester Airport, 22nd-busiest in Europe and the largest operational base for Ryanair, which is Europe's largest low-cost carrier and the world's largest international airline by number of international passengers.[18] Stansted serves more scheduled European destinations than any other airport in the UK,[19] as well as some destinations further afield. It is the home of Air Harrods, operated by Harrods Aviation,[20] allowing VIP aircraft to land there, such as Air Force One carrying the President of the United States, Barack Obama, in 2009 and also 2016, also President Donald Trump in 2017 and 2019.[21]

Stansted Airport railway station is situated in the terminal building directly below the main concourse.[22] Services to Central London are on the Stansted Express train to and from London Liverpool Street.

Southend (SEN)


Located in Essex, Southend Airportmap6 expanded commercial air transport operations to destinations in Ireland in 2011, and to mainland Europe in 2012 when easyJet commenced operations using the brand new terminal and railway station. Southend claims it only takes 15 minutes to go through arrivals from plane to train with hand luggage. It was the third-busiest airport in London from the 1960s until the end of the 1970s, when it was overtaken in passenger numbers by London Stansted Airport.[23][24]

Southend Airport railway station is served by Abellio Greater Anglia trains, which connect the airport to London Liverpool Street station up to 8 times per hour. The journey to London takes about one hour.[25]

Other airports


Though not generally considered London airports, Birmingham Airport and Southampton Airport have been suggested as alternative airports for London due to the existence of direct rail links serving Central London.[26] Birmingham Airport has argued that High Speed 2, once complete, would make it an attractive option for London passengers.[27]

Other civil airports

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

A number of other airports also serve the London area.

Open airports


The following are mainly used by general aviation flights.

Closed airports


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

Royal Air Force stations


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





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

Proposed airports


Thames Estuary


Due to London's airports, particularly Heathrow, operating at full capacity, Boris Johnson, London's former mayor and former UK Prime Minister, and Sir Norman Foster historically proposed a new airport, 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 have been 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 have required the closure of Heathrow, and probably have made the new airport the busiest in the world.

The plans met with opposition from some people living nearby, warning the airport would cause a significant increase in bird strikes.[28] Some other people and local businesses, recognising the depressed levels of economic activity in north Kent, were supportive and argued that London needed a new airport in order to be able to compete in the world.

Given its position east of London, this airport would have been less accessible than Heathrow from most parts of central and southern England.

Traffic and statistics


Passengers numbers

Annual passenger traffic at LGW LCY LHR LTN STN SEN airports. See Wikidata query.
Airports of London passenger totals, 2004–2014 (millions)
Updated: 28 April 2015.[29]
Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, City, Southend

Cargo numbers

Graph showing cargo, passengers, and aircraft movements from 1990 to 2011
Statistics from 1990 to 2011


Year Aircraft
2001 1,074,773[30] Decrease 1 113,790,381 Decrease 2 1,649,437
2002 954,570[31] Decrease 11.2 117,138,188 Increase 2.9 1,682,693 Increase 2.0
2003 967,270[32] Increase 1.3 120,493,239 Increase 2.9 1,667,803 Decrease 0.9
2004 1,005,256[33] Increase 3.8 128,933,753 Increase 7.0 1,795,326 Increase 7.6
2005 1,038,241[34] Increase 3.2 133,836,827 Increase 3.8 1,788,671 Decrease 0.4
2006 1,060,831[35] Increase 5.4 137,192,958 Increase 2.5 1,717,360 Decrease 4.0
2007 1,087,703[36] Increase 2.5 139,950,593 Increase 2.0 1,724,040 Increase 0.4
2008 1,077,448[37] Decrease 0.9 137,106,041 Decrease 2.0 1,743,028 Increase 1.1
2009 1,003,616[38] Decrease 6.9 130,307,938 Decrease 5.0 1,563,783 Decrease 10.3
2010 954,371[39] Decrease 4.9 127,353,419 Decrease 2.3 1,808,005 Increase 15.6
2011 1,072,126[7] Increase 12.4 133,709,327 Increase 5.0 1,802,939[40] Decrease 0.3
2012 1,060,967[7] Decrease 1.0 134,914,412 Increase 0.9 1,805,761[41] Increase 0.2
2013 1,067,992[7] Increase 0.7 139,652,261 Increase 3.5 1,760,690[41] Decrease 2.5
2014 1,098,605[7] Increase 2.9 146,631,158 Increase 5.0 1,819,587[41] Increase 3.3

Busiest routes


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

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



See also



  1. ^ Beijing to overtake London as world's largest aviation hub. Massive new airport planned
  2. ^ "Size of Reporting Airports 2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  3. ^ "How to get into the city from London's airports", wind.com.
  4. ^ "London Southend Airport to central London by train". Archived from the original on 14 July 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Domestic Terminal Passenger Traffic 2012(a)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  6. ^ a b "EU and Other International Terminal Passenger Traffic 2012" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 May 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d e Aircraft Movements 2012[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Airbus A318 at London City Airport – Captain Dave". 7 November 2017. Archived from the original on 13 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Swiss completes first CSeries revenue flight to London City". Flightglobal.com. 8 August 2017.
  10. ^ "Heathrow third runway plans scrapped by new government". BBC News. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
  11. ^ Alan Travis (3 May 2012). "Official waiting time figures reveal scale of Heathrow chaos | World news". The Guardian. London.
  12. ^ "Heathrow Express". www.webcitation.org. Archived from the original on 24 May 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  13. ^ Lucy Tobin (12 April 2012). "Record 70 million use Heathrow airport - Business News - Business". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 13 April 2012.
  14. ^ "Gatwick by Numbers - Gatwick Airport". www.gatwickairport.com. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  15. ^ "Where We Are - easyJet CareerseasyJet Careers". careers.easyjet.com. Archived from the original on 27 September 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Airline data annual reports 2017 - UK Civil Aviation Authority". www.caa.co.uk.
  17. ^ "Luton Dart airport shuttle welcomes first passengers". BBC News. 10 March 2023. Retrieved 10 March 2023.
  18. ^ "Domestic bliss". The Economist.
  19. ^ Based on IATA schedules for August 2016
  20. ^ "Air Harrods". Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  21. ^ "Trump visit: The reason Donald Trump landed at Stansted Airport for UK visit". 3 June 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  22. ^ stanstedairport.com - To & From the Airport retrieved 25 April 2017
  23. ^ EasyJet Helps Make Southend London's Sixth Major Airport London.net, published 16 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011
  24. ^ EasyJet to offer flights from Southend Financial Times, published 16 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011
  25. ^ "London Southend Airport - Trains – General Information". southendairport.com. Archived from the original on 7 January 2016.
  26. ^ Elledge, John (1 July 2019). "How many airports does London have? | CityMetric". CityMetric. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  27. ^ "Airport 'near to London with HS2'". BBC News. 23 February 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  28. ^ Juliette Jowit (26 January 2012). "Risk of bird strikes would make Thames Estuary UK's 'most dangerous airport' | Environment". The Guardian. London.
  29. ^ "UK Airport Statistics" (PDF). Caa.co.uk. 26 March 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  30. ^ Aircraft Movements 2001 Archived 3 February 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Air Transport Movements(a) 2002 Archived 14 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Air Transport Movements(a) 2003 Archived 14 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Air Transport Movements(a) 2004 Archived 22 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2005" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 September 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  35. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2006" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  36. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2007" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  37. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2008" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  38. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2009" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  39. ^ Air Transport Movements 2010 Archived 8 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ Air Transport Movements 2011 Archived 27 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ a b c "Air Transport Movements 2004-2014" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.