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Travel / Transport / Air
Buying cheap air tickets from the UK; using British airports
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Cheap flights to Europe
  Long-distance flights
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This page explains about flying to or from the UK. It includes advice about how to buy a cheap air ticket. Use the information in the sections below to contact several agents or airlines and compare their prices.

* New security / hand luggage arrangements at UK airports
Following a major security alert on 10 August 2006, additional security checks have been introduced for people travelling from a UK airport. Allow extra time to go through the security checks. There are strict new rules about what may be taken as hand luggage - check the airport's website before you pack for up-to-date details (the websites for UK airports are shown below).
From Monday 6 November 2006: some liquids can be carried if they are in small containers of up to 100ml each and are carried in a single transparent, resealable plastic bag: the bag should be smaller than 20cm x 20cm and needs to be shown separately to security. For details, see the Department for Transport website:
If you are taking presents with you do not wrap these before you travel (they may need to be opened).
From Monday 7 January 2008: many (but not all) UK airports will now allow more than one item of hand luggage to be carried through check-in. For a list of which airports have removed this restriction, see:
If you wish to carry more than one item of hand luggage you still need to check if your airline company allows more than one item to be taken into the cabin (some budget airlines do not allow this), and you also need to check the rules at the airport which you will use for your return journey (especially if you are flying to another UK airport).

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There are a number of companies which will search for the best tickets from several airlines; these are called flight consolidators. Some examples are (select "Flights" from the menus on the home pages):

STA Travel UK specialises in travel for students or people under 26 years old. They have negotiated with some airlines to get special discounts or more flexible tickets for these customers. You may need to have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) or an International Youth Identity Card (IYIC) for some of the offers: when you buy online you will need to send proof that you are a student or under 26 before your ticket can be sent to you. See:

Note that package holidays (combining air tickets and hotel accommodation) may be cheaper than booking flights and hotels separately.

If you use a travel agent in the UK you may want to check if it is a member of ABTA ("Association of British Travel Agents"; you can check this at This should protect you from losing money if the travel agent goes bankrupt.

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European national airlines often offer cheap fares, so it is worth checking the website of British Airways and of the national airline of the country where you will be travelling (always check for "special offers"). Some of the European national airlines are:

Airline Country
Aer Lingus Ireland
Air France France
Alitalia Italy
Austrian Airlines Austria
British Airways UK
Finnair Finland
Iberia Airlines Spain
KLM Netherlands
Lufthansa Germany
SAS Sweden
Swiss International Airlines Switzerland

Budget airlines only fly short-haul (from the UK airports to nearby airports in the UK or Europe) using smaller aeroplanes. They keep prices low by offering a simple service. Below is a list of some budget airlines which operate flights to/from the UK (some of the largest ones are RyanAir, EasyJet and BMI Baby). The departure airports and destinations are not complete lists and may change: check the airline's website for a complete list of flight routes served. Many of the flights are from or to smaller regional airports: when comparing prices, remember to consider the cost of travel to and from these airports.

Airline UK departure airports / flight destinations
Air Berlin from: London Stansted, Manchester, Glasgow
to: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal
Air Polonia from: London Stansted
to: Poland
Air Scotland from: Glasgow, Edinburgh
to: Greece or Spain
Air Southwest from: London Gatwick, Manchester, Leeds Bradford
to: Plymouth, Newquay, Bristol
bmibaby from: Birmingham, East Midlands, Manchester, Cardiff
to: UK, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium
Brussels Airlines UK from: London Gatwick/Heathrow, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton
to: Belgium (Brussels)
EasyJet from: London Gatwick/Luton/Stansted, Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle & others
to: most major destinations in the EU
flybe from: Birmingham, Southampton, Exeter, Belfast, other UK airports
to: UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Austria
Germanwings from: London Gatwick/Stansted, Edinburgh
to: Germany (Cologne/Bonn, Stuttgart)
Helvetic from: London Luton
to: Switzerland (Zurich)
Iceland Express from: London Gatwick/Stansted
to: Iceland
Jet2 from: Leeds/Bradford, Manchester, some other UK airports
to: Spain, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hungary
MyTravel Lite from: Birmingham
to: Spain, The Canaries, The Balearics
RyanAir from: London Stansted/Luton, Liverpool, Glasgow & others
to: most major destinations in the EU
SkyEurope from: London Stansted, Manchester
to: Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary
Thomson Fly from: Coventry, Doncaster/Sheffield, Bournemouth
to: France, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Spain
TUIFly (formerly HLX and Hapagfly) from: Coventry, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh
to: Germany (Cologne/Bonn, Hamburg, Hanover, Munich, Stuttgart)
Transavia (formerly BasiqAir) from: London Stansted
to: Netherlands (Rotterdam)
Volareweb from: London Luton, London Gatwick
to: Italy
Wizzair from: London Luton, Liverpool, Doncaster/Sheffield, Glasgow
to: Poland, Bulgaria/Hungary/Croatia/Slovenia (from London only)

For a list of budget airlines routes from each UK airport, see:
You can find budget airline routes between any two European countries or airports using the search tool at:

To obtain the lowest possible prices, you should generally try to buy tickets two or three months before travelling. Note that sometimes the prices which you see advertised only apply to a limited number of seats (later bookings can be much more expensive), and there may be special conditions such as a minimum or maximum stay requirement. If you are a group, sometimes it can be cheaper to book seats individually instead of booking them all together. Cheaper tickets may be available if you stay abroad on a Saturday night.

It may be easier to buy cheap tickets if you can avoid the busiest times. These are usually during school holidays (in particular, in July, August, late March, April and December). Public holidays are very busy, especially the days around the Christmas, New Year, Easter and August bank holidays.

There are other costs you need to pay which are often not included in the price which is shown in the advertised price. For example:
- UK government taxes
- Airport service charges
- Weekend supplements (there are sometimes extra charges for travelling at weekends)
- A charge for credit card bookings
- Charges for bags which exceed the airline's weight or size limits
- A charge for checking in baggage
- A fuel surcharge if the cost of oil has risen
- A charge for services on the plane, eg food/drink/newspaper

There are usually no paper tickets for discount airline flights (you should print out your internet booking).

Cheap flights may be "non-refundable", which means that you cannot get your money back if you need to cancel. However, if you cancel you should be able to receive back your tax and airport charges - you will need to write to the airline to claim this money back.

Several budget airlines have gone bankrupt in recent years, so be prepared to rearrange your travel plans at the last minute if necessary.
If you have booked a holiday package including a flight using a travel company with an ATOL ("Air Travel Organiser's Licensing") number you should avoid losing money and get some assistance if the airline goes bankrupt.
You can check the ATOL number at the web-site, and you can often see the ATOL logo in adverts.
If you buy a flight directly you may wish to pay with a credit card (rather than with a debit card), as you may be able to make a claim for a refund if the airline goes bankrupt.

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The largest UK airline is British Airways, who operate flights between the UK and most parts of the world.
The second-biggest UK airline for long-distance flights is Virgin Atlantic.
Direct flights to/from London may also be provided by the national airline of your destination country.
Indirect flights may be possible using other national airlines (usually there will be a stop in that country's capital city).
Note that the cost of long-distance flights can vary a lot depending on the time of year - you may be able to travel more cheaply in less busy seasons.

FlyBMI operate flights out of London Heathrow and Manchester

Singapore Airlines offers flights from London Heathrow and Manchester to destinations in Asia and Australasia.

Qantas flies to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East.

Air New Zealand fly from London to New Zealand, Los Angeles and Hong Kong

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The main UK airports in each region are as follows. The hotel links will help you to find a hotel near the airport (if you cannot find any hotels listed or wish to stay in a nearby town or city, try to increase the Search Radius). If you want to hire a car from one of the airports, click here.

Area Airport name (other name)
Airport website
London area Heathrow (terminals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
click here
click here
  Gatwick (terminals North and South)
click here
click here
click here
click here
click here
click here
  London City
click here
click here
South England Kent International (Manston)
click here
click here
  Bournemouth International
click here
click here
click here
click here
click here
click here
click here
South-west England Bristol
click here
click here
  Exeter International
click here
click here
  Newquay Cornwall International
click here
click here
  Plymouth City
click here
click here
Wales Cardiff International
click here
click here
Midlands Birmingham International
click here
click here
  Nottingham East Midlands
click here
click here
East Anglia Norwich International
click here
click here
North-east England Newcastle International
click here
click here
  Durham Tees Valley (Teesside)
click here
click here
Yorkshire Humberside
click here
click here
  Leeds/Bradford International
click here
click here
  Doncaster/Sheffield (Robin Hood)
click here
click here
North-west England Blackpool International
click here
click here
  Liverpool (John Lennon)
click here
click here
click here
click here
  Isle of Man
click here
click here
Scotland Aberdeen (Dyce)
click here
click here
  Edinburgh (Turnhouse)
click here
click here
  Glasgow International
click here
click here
Northern Ireland Belfast International
click here
click here
  Belfast City (George Best)
click here
click here
  City of Derry
click here
click here

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Once you have left your plane, you will need to go through immigration control and may have to have a health check. For information about this process and the meaning of passport stamps, see: Prepare/Visa.

Baggage reclaim
You then need to collect any baggage you have in the baggage reclaim hall. Wait for your bags by the conveyor belt (carousel) which shows your flight number. You can take a trolley if you need one to help you to move your baggage inside the airport.

Pass through customs control. If you have goods to declare (meaning that you believe that you will have to pay an import tax called duty, or you think you may be carrying something which is not allowed), you pass through the red channel. If you have nothing to declare, you pass through a green channel. Even if you pass through the green channel, you may be chosen for a random check - the customs officer will ask you to open your bags and will check the contents. If you are travelling from an EEA (European Economic Area) country, there may be a blue channel (there are no taxes to pay for goods carried from these countries).

Arrival gate
Once you have passed through the customs area you will enter the arrivals section of the airport. If someone is coming to the airport to meet you, look for them carefully as you walk through the arrival passage. If you do not know this person, he or she may be holding a card either with your name or with the name of the person, organisation or taxi company.
If you cannot find the person, use one of the public telephones to call him or her (if you know it, use the person's mobile telephone number). If the person is late (or you are early), so go to the seating area called the Group Meeting Point and wait there. You can ask the information desk to make an announcement for you.
Be careful with your bags when you are in the airport - never leave them unattended (they may be stolen or may cause a bomb scare).

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Coach: Coaches travel to many parts of the UK from the major international airports such as Gatwick and Heathrow. The names of the main airport coach services are: National Express, Flightlink, Jetlink, Railair and Airbus. For information about National Express services, see: Shop/Company/NationalExpress.

Train: Railway links to the airports are described on the National Rail website: To find train times and buy tickets, see: Shop/Company/TheTrainline.

Taxi: There are licensed taxi ranks at most airports. Do not accept lifts from anyone who approaches you in the airport and asks if you need a cab. It may be cheaper if you use a minicab or specialist airport collection service (a meet and greet service) company, but these services should be booked in advance. Exclusive Airports is one example of a company providing a meet and greet service for people arriving at London airports who wish to travel to London (see: For more details about taxis, see: Travel/Transport/Taxi.

Further information about how to travel to and from each of the airports is given at:

If you will be staying at a hotel, when you make your reservation you may want to ask the if there is a shuttle bus service or meet and greet service which the hotel can recommend to you (sometimes there are coach services which will take you directly to the most popular hotels in the area).

If you are attending a course at a school, college or university in the UK, ask if it organises an airport collection service for international students, or whether it recommends a company which can provide a service for you. If it is shortly before the start of a course, there may be a group of students arriving at the same time who can travel together from the airport. If you are staying with a host family, sometimes a member of the family will be able to go to the airport to meet you, and if not the host father or mother should at least be able to give you advice about how to travel there. Make sure that you have contacted your accommodation to confirm the time and day when you will arrive. You should keep a list of useful contact telephone numbers in your hand luggage, in case you have problems meeting someone or getting to or into your accommodation.

Below is some information about travelling between central London and the London airports:

(1) London Heathrow (LHR)

Heathrow airport is about 20 kilometres west of London. It is the largest international airport in the UK. Map.
For more details about the airport:
Details about how to travel to or from the airport:

If you are going to central London, some of the possible ways of travelling are listed below:

- It is quite expensive to travel from Heathrow to central London by taxi. The fare can be £50 or more (it depends on the traffic), and the journey may take over an hour. It is usual to pay a 10% tip to the driver. Taxis can be convenient if you are travelling in a small group of between 2 and 4 people, because you can share the cost of the journey (but note that there is a limit to how much baggage you can carry, and there may be extra charges for bags). For more information about travelling by taxi, see: Travel/Transport/Taxi.

- The Heathrow Express ( is a fast train service between Heathrow Airport (from Heathrow Central (Terminals 1/2/3) or Heathrow Terminal 5 stations) and Paddington station in central London (there is also a free shuttle train between Heathrow Central (Terminals 1/2/3) and Heathrow Terminal 4 stations). The journey takes about 20 minutes and there are trains every 15 minutes. You can take a taxi or other public transport from Paddington station to your destination in central London.

- Heathrow Connect ( is a cheaper stopping train service from Heathrow Terminal 4 or Heathrow Central (Terminals 1/2/3) to Paddington. It stops at Hayes, Southall, Hanwell, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway and London Paddington. The journey time from Heathrow Central to Paddington is about 25 minutes, and from Heathrow Terminal 4 to Paddington is about 35 minutes.

- If you are staying in south London (south of the River Thames), you may want to take a number 285 bus from the central bus station at terminals 1,2,3 to the train station at Feltham. Trains from Feltham to Waterloo are frequent (usually every 10-15 minutes; the journey takes about 30 minutes) and are operated by South West Trains (

- There is an underground ("Tube") train service from the airport to central London. The service is called the Piccadilly line (it is dark blue on an underground map). There are different stations for Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 for Heathrow Terminal 4 and for Heathrow Terminal 5, which are all in zone 6. Follow the signs in the airport which say Underground (it may be quite a long walk from the arrival gate to the trains). All of the trains from this station travel towards central London. Get on a train using the wider double doors in the middle of a carriage: there is an area just inside the doors where you can put your bags (see picture below). It takes about 50 minutes to reach central London. When you reach the ticket gates at your destination, look for a special gate for people who are carrying a lot (it can be difficult to pass through the ordinary ticket gates): you may need to ask a member of staff to open this gate for you. For more information about London Underground, including maps and how to check timetables, see Travel/Transport/London/Underground.

- National Express operates a coach service from Heathrow Airport (from the central bus station, close to terminals 1, 2 and 3) to Victoria Coach Station in central London.

- Dot2Dot is a minibus shuttle service between Heathrow and your chosen destination in central London or Canary Wharf.

- There is a night bus service N9 which travels through central London (stopping at Aldwych, Strand, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Hammersmith) before continuing to the central bus stop at Heathrow Airport (for terminals 1, 2 and 3). There are also 24-hour services from Heathrow to Greenford (105), to Harrow Weald (140) and to Kingston (285). To check service times or to download the timetable for these or other daytime bus services, see:

Transport at Heathrow
Priority area for luggage on the Underground

(2) London Gatwick (LGW)
Gatwick airport is about 40 kilometres south of London. It is the second largest international airport in the UK. Map.
For more details about the airport:
Details about how to travel to or from the airport:
- The Gatwick Express train goes between Gatwick Airport station and Victoria station in central London:
[ in February 2006 it was announced that at a future date the express service will be replaced by a stopping service ]
- Southern operates stopping train services between Gatwick Airport station and Victoria station. See: and
- First Capital Connect operates stopping services between Gatwick Airport station and London Bridge station (the service continues to other Thameslink stations):
- National Express operates a coach service to London's Victoria Coach Station.

(3) Stansted (STN)
Stansted airport is about 50 kilometres north-east of London. Map.
For more details about the airport:
Details about how to travel to or from the airport:
- The Stansted Express train goes between Stansted Airport station and Liverpool Street station in central London:
- National Express operates a coach service to London's Victoria Coach Station.
- Terravision operates a coach service to Victoria or Liverpool Street in London:

(4) Luton (LTN)
Luton airport is about 50 kilometres north of London. Map.
For more details about the airport:
Details about how to travel to or from the airport:
- Trains run from Luton Airport Parkway station to central London; for timetables and prices:
- Easy Bus operates a minibus service to/from Gloucester Place, central London (near Baker Street):
- Green Line operates a coach service to central London (route 757). This service stops at Brent Cross, Finchley Road, Baker Street, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner and London Victoria. For details, see:

(5) London City (LCY)
City airport is about 10 kilometres east of London. Map.
For more details about the airport:
Details about how to travel to or from the airport:
- The DLR (Docklands Light Railway) operates a light rail service from London City Airport to Bank, from which there are connecting Tube services to other parts of London:

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If you have agreed to go to an airport to meet someone who is arriving in the UK, make sure that you know the expected time and day of arrival, the flight code and the airport and terminal number (there are currently 4 terminals at Heathrow). Say that you will meet the person at the arrival gate, but that he/she should go to the Group Meeting Point if you are late for some reason. If you have a mobile telephone, give the person the number so that he/she can contact you if necessary. If you have not met the person before, send a photograph of yourself by e-mail, or make a sign with the person's name which you can hold up at the arrival gate.

Flight arrivals screen
Go to the Arrivals section at the airport.
Look for a screen with flight information.
First, it will tell you when the flight is expected.
It will then tell you when the plane has landed.
After bags have been unloaded it will say baggage in hall.

After the flight information says baggage in hall, go to the arrival gate to wait for the person you are meeting. Be patient: sometimes the immigration and baggage process take a long time.

If you are late arriving at the airport (or if the flight has arrived early), go to the Group Meeting Point and see if he/she is there. If you have problems finding the person, you can go to the information desk and ask them to make an announcement. If the flight has been delayed or cancelled, contact the airline's desk (in the Departures section of the airport) for more information. Note that the information desk is not allowed to tell you on which flight a person is travelling, because of data protection laws.

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London Heathrow
- Having arrived at Heathrow by car, taxi, bus, Tube or train, the journey to the arrivals or departures area is accessible by wheelchair, using lifts.
- The Heathrow Express train is accessible, taking you to Paddington in central London. Use the accessible carriage of the train (see below). From Paddington station you can take a taxi to your hotel.
- You can travel free on the Heathrow Express between Heathrow Terminal 4 or Heathrow Terminal 5 and Heathrow Terminals 1/2/3 (for buses, or for a transfer to another flight).
- There are barriers which prevent people from trying to take trolleys away from the airport onto the Tube or trains. Unfortunately these also stop wheelchairs: you need to ask for a member of staff to take down part of the barrier so that you can pass.

The accessible carriage on
the Heathrow Express

Wheelchair space on
the Heathrow Express

Lifts provide access to the
departures or arrivals halls

Wheelchair users need to transfer to one of the
airport's wheelchairs, usually after checking in bags

London City Airport
If you are a wheelchair user who is travelling to London from nearby European countries, London City Airport may be convenient (it is also the most centrally located of the airports). The DLR and Jubilee lines provide accessible transport from here to east or central London.

General information about flying for mobility impaired people:
The Disability Living Foundation ( produce a general practical guide to air travel for people with disabilities called "Flying High".

For further information about accessibility, check the airport's websites (the links are given above).

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Travel/Transport/London: Transport in London
Travel/Transport/Taxi: Take a taxi
Travel/Transport/Coach: Coach travel
Travel/Transport/Train: Train travel
Prepare/Visa: Immigration

Home page: Home

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