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Business travellers’ guide to getting into London from airports (PART 3)

30th May 2014

In parts one and two of our business travellers’ guide to getting into London from airports we focussed on the two main arrival points for the capital – Heathrow and Gatwick. In the third and final part of our in-depth feature, Flightline Travel focus on the three remaining airports that serve London – City, Stansted and Luton.

Located in an area known as Docklands, in the London Borough of Newham, London City Airport is the only arrival point actually situated within the capital. Approximately eight miles from the City of London financial district, and four miles from the Docklands financial district Canary Wharf, its origin is born on of the need to serve business travellers heading to these business zones. Conceived in 1981 and finally opened in 1987, the airport predominently receives small bodied, mid-range passenger planes and private jets, and in 2013 served over 3.3 million passengers, mainly arriving from the European mainland. The airports’ location and moderately small size means there are flying restrictions which can place a tremendous amount of stress on the infrastructure, particularly at peak times when up to 38 flights an hour are dealt with.

The overiding attraction of City Airport is its Central London location and proximity to the financial districts. It receives scheduled flights from all of Europe’s significant financial centres, including Zurich, Geneva, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and Jersey, and also the world’s largest financial centre, New York. With these destinations and its excellent location, it’s easy to see why so many business travellers choose to arrive at City Airport.

Transport routes to any London location are plentifully available. In 2008 Business Traveller magazine rated London City Airport as having the best public transport links in the world. The primary mode of public transport is the Docklands Light Railway. Known as the DLR, business travellers board this automated, driverless light metro system which is directly linked to the capital’s financial districts. Like City Airport, the DLR was first opened in 1987 to serve the redeveloped Docklands area of London, but today also reaches as far north as Stratford, south as far as Lewisham, west to Tower Gateway, and east to Beckton. The DLR also serves the increasingly popular ExCel exhibition centre. Ticketing for this transport system is integrated into the city-wide London fare zone system (the airport is in zone 3), which allows for usage on the capital’s three other great mass transit options – the London Underground ‘tube’ network, various mainline train operators, and the extensive bus network.

For pricing examples this feature focusses on travel between the airport and Bank station in the City of London financial district (zone 1). A single journey during peak travel on DLR will cost business travellers paying by cash £4.70 (€5.80 / $7.85) in each direction. Journey time is approximately 32 minutes, with other nine stops along the route. Savings can be made with Travelcards (zones 1-3 costs £11.40 (€14.00 / $19.00) or by using the heavily discounted Oyster card payment system, but these only represent value if you are planning on making multiple journeys or intending to travel elsewhere in London. Many DLR stations are also linked to the London Underground network (Bank is a major transfer terminal) so access to the rest of the capital is very easy.

An alternative to rail travel is road transport. You can get from City Airport to Bank by Transport for London bus, though there is no direct route and transfers will be required. You can take the 474 bus to Canning Town Station (21 mins), transfer onto the 115 bus to Aldgate East Station (29 mins), get off and then walk into the heart of the City (roughly 20 mins). Total time is approximately 70 minutes. In comparison with the quicker, simpler and more direct DLR, business travellers are unlikely to favour this mode of transport. Bus tickets can currently be purchased using cash, with any single journey to Bank (in fact any destination) costing £2.40 (€3.00 / $4.00), but this option will soon end on 6th July 2014. Hence forth the only way business travellers will be able to board a bus will be with an Oyster card, a prepaid Travelcard, or a contactless bank card (this must set it up prior to boarding). This policy has been implemented to dramatically reduce the amount of time buses have to wait at stops. Currently a single bus journey using an Oyster card costs just £1.45 (€1.80 / $2.40), with a maximum daily cap of £4.40 (€5.40 / $7.30).

If you’d rather avoid public transport by road business travellers can get from City Airport to The City financial district by black cab or licensed taxi services. Journey time by road in typical traffic is between 30-35 minutes. Black cabs are readily available outside the airport terminal and typically charge £25.00 (€30.00 / $42.00), subject to waiting time in traffic. Licensed taxi services will need to be booked in advance and  typically charge (for a standard car) £20.00 (€24.50 / $34.00). A pre-booked return journey can be arranged, but there isn’t anything in the way of savings to be made. Central London traffic is notoriously busy, with a high possibility of delay. Business travellers choosing this method of transport are advised to factor in delay time.

As with all the airports that serve London, senior executive or VIP chauffeur driven services are readily available (booked in advance) between City Airport and any London destination, with vehicle type and hire duration dictating costs. Unfortunately there are no helicopter charter services available to transfer executive business travellers into Central London, due to the stricter flying regulations imposed on an airport based within a city.

London Stansted Airport

Whereas Heathrow and City airports are located in the central and metropolitan areas of London, Stansted airport – like Gatwick and Luton – are situated some distance from the capital. Stansted is located 30 miles northeast of the city, in the county of Essex, but just like Gatwick is well served by public transport and an ideal arrival point for accessing the east of the city.

Originally used to operate charter holiday flights, Stansted has evolved into London’s third airport to help relieve the congestion of Heathrow and Gatwick (which have both struggled with the opposition to expansion). It is served primarily by a number of major European low-cost carriers and is the base for high volume budget airline RyanAir. As well as a wide and diverse range of European locations, Stansted also receives scheduled flights from major UK and Irish cities including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, and Dublin. This makes it an ideal airport to use for domestic air travel from the further-flung UK departure points (in relation to London).

The fastest method of public transport into Central London from Stansted is by train, and the leading, dedicated service is the Stansted Express. Taking just 47 minutes travel time to London Liverpool Street, business travellers are very well served to reach the heart of the City financial district. This fast and direct service departs every 15 minutes, running from 04:40 until 23:25 Monday to Friday, with an earlier start time of 03:40 on Monday’s only, and 04:10 on Monday’s and Fridays only. As a premium service carriages are spacious and air-conditioned, and very pleasurable to travel in. All carriages feature dedicated, easy access luggage compartments, and passengers have access to an at-seat refreshment trolley. Wi-Fi is also available free of charge.

First-class business travellers also benefit from more space in quieter surroundings, complimentary refreshments, extra-large seats with more legroom, a Stansted Airport Fast-track Security Pass, entry into award-winning No.1 Traveller lounges (which includes complimentary food and drinks, free Wi-Fi, magazines, newspapers and the best views of the airport), and entry to the Greater Anglia First Class Lounge on Platform 10 at London Liverpool Street Station. The at-seat trolley service offers complimentary tea, coffee or mineral water. All in all, the first class option – with its spacious tables and extra comfort – is a perfect working environment for business travellers. Fares are available in three tariffs – Standard Class, Business Plus and First Class – as either singles or returns. Standard singles (purchased on the day) cost £23.40 (€28.75 / $39.00) with returns available for £33.20 (€41.00 / $55.50) offering better value for money. Business Plus tariffs cost £29.90 (€36.75 / $39.00) for singles and £39.90 (€50.00 / $67.00) for returns. First Class tickets cost £37.50 (€46.00 / $62.75) for a single and £54.10 (€66.50 / $90.50) for a return. Significant savings can be acheived across all tariffs if business travellers book their tickets in advance on-line, or if they are travelling in groups (see Stansted Express for details).

An alternative rail service is available between Stansted Airport and Liverpool Street station, operated by the Abellio Greater Anglia train franchise. The service is not as comfortable as the Stansted Express but surprisingly costs the same amount, with standard singles (purchased on the day) costing from £23.40 (€28.75 / $39.00) and the cheapest returns available from £33.20 (€41.00 / $55.50). The service runs at a similar frequency to its more comfortable rival, but travel time is longer, typically taking 53 minutes. All things considered, with fares between the two services identical, business travellers are better off spending their money on the more comfortable Stansted Express option.

Business travellers preferring to travel by road can catch the National Express coach service to Victoria Coach Station. Journey time is 1 hr 40 minutes, subject to traffic delays. Road users access London via the M11 motorway. Single fares typically cost £10.00 (€12.30 / $16.75) with returns priced at £18.00 (€22.00 / $30.00) offering slightly better value. However, if business travellers book in advance on-line, single journeys in each direction can be bought for as little as £5.00 (€6.15 / $8.40), representing excellent value for money.

For private hire road journeys both black cab and licensed taxi services are readily available, but prices are very expensive compared to travel from other London airports. The journey time by road is typically between 60 minutes. Black cabs are readily available outside the airport terminal and typically charge £140.00 (€172.00 / $235.00), subject to waiting time in traffic. Business travellers preferring to used licensed taxi services will need to book in advance, with typical charges for a standard car of £99.00 (€122.00 / $165.00).

VIP and executive travel via chauffeur driven services and helicopter are both available to and from Stansted Airport. Flightline can arrange both of these executive services for business travellers, and we’re happy to take your enquiry.

London Luton Airport

The fifth and final airport serving the capital is London Luton Airport. Situated in Bedfordshire, 35 miles northwest of Central London, Luton Airport – like Stansted – is primarily home to many low-cost budget airlines and is the UK base for EasyJet. Again, like Stansted, a wide and diverse range of European cities are served from Luton, and some UK and Irish cities, including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin.

As with all the other airports that serve London, the fastest mode of transport into the centre is train. The airport is served by Luton Airport Parkway Station, though business travellers will need to catch a shuttle bus from the terminal (duration typically 10 mins). Once there though there are very fast train options into Central London.

The quickest service is operated by East Midlands Trains and can take as little as 21 minutes to London St Pancras International station, though typically journey times take between 30-40 minutes. Single Standard Class tickets (during peak hours) cost £14.00 (€17.50 / $23.50) and returns £27.50 (€34.00 / $46.00), with First Class tickets available from £38.00 (€47.00 / $64.00) for singles and £51.00 (€63.00 / $85.50) return.

The other rail service between Luton Airport and Central London is operated by First Capital Connect. Journey times of as little as 25 minutes are available, though typically it will take 30-35 minutes into London St Pancras International station. Standard Class single journeys (during peak hours) cost £14.00 (€17.50 / $23.50) and returns £27.90 (€34.50 / $47.00). First Class tickets are available from £21.50 (€26.50 / $36.00) for singles and £38.00 (€47.00 / $64.00) return. UK rail travel prices vary from train time to train time, and these figures are only meant as a guide.

Road travel by coach for business travellers into Central London from Luton Airport is readily available, with dedicated airport transfers over 60 times a day via National Express. All journeys terminate at Victoria Coach Station but there are multiple drop off points along the way, including Finchley Road, St. John’s Wood, Baker Street, Portman Square, Golders Green, and Victoria Rail Station. Journey time is can be as little as 35 minutes, though typically takes 1hr 35 mins, subject to traffic delays. If booked in advance on-line, single fares in each direction can be purchased for as little as £5.00 (€6.15 / $8.40), representing excellent value for money.

Alternative public transport by road includes the GreenLine 757 service (single fares £10.00 (€12.30 / $16.75), returns £15.00 (€18.45 / $25.00), and the high frequency, low cost express easyBus service which operates 64 buses a day, non-stop to London Baker Street in 50 just minutes. Singe journeys in either direction start from just £2.00 (€2.50 / $3.35). Both of these services can be caught from outside the airport terminal (Bay 7 and Bay 9 respectively).

Private hire road transport in the form of black cab and licensed taxi services are readily available. Black cabs can be caught outside the airport terminal, with journey times taking between 60-75 minutes, while licensed taxi services need to be booked in advance. Typically the fare is around £85.00 (€104.50 / $142.50) but is subject to traffic delays.

Executive and VIP business travellers can travel by chauffeur driven services and helicopter to and from Luton Airport. Flightline are happy to arrange either of these executive services for you.

© Copyright Flightline Travel Management Ltd. All rights reserved.
All prices correct at time of publication.

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