Flights & Airports
International Flights To and From the UK
Probably the easiest and quickest way to get to the UK is by plane.
The UK is home to the busiest airport in the world but also has many other airports operating international flights and making the country accessible to global tourists. The largest airports are located near London but there are numerous regional airports offering international routes.
If you are flying to the UK you are most likely to arrive at one of the bigger airports like Heathrow or Gatwick. Heathrow is the world's busiest airport and is Britain's largest with 67 million passengers a year passing through its doors. Heathrow airport is situated 15 miles west of London and has planes flying to 170 destinations. Heathrow is the primary hub of British airways, Virgin and BMI but over 90 other airlines use the airport.
For more information about Heathrow, visit www.heathrow-airport-guide.co.uk.
Gatwick airport is the UK's second largest airport and is located 29 miles south of London in Crawley, West Sussex. Gatwick airport sends planes to about 200 destinations and over 34 million passengers arrive in the UK through this airport. As charter airlines do not operate from Heathrow, Gatwick serves as a base for airlines including First Choice Airways, Thomas Cook airlines and Thomsonfly.
There are numerous other airports spread throughout the UK (see map) and a lot of these operate chartered flights. A Charter airline generally transports tourists to popular holiday destinations and the flights are part of a package holiday deal, which includes accommodation and transfers. Charter airlines usually fly to destinations that do not have any scheduled services and this is usually to smaller airports.
If you are flying to the UK and your final destination is Scotland then you could fly directly to Edinburgh or Glasgow. For Wales, you would use Cardiff International airport and if you want to pay homage to the Beatles then the John Lennon airport in Liverpool is a good place to start.
The following smaller airports also offer international destinations: Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Doncaster, Durham Tees Valley airport, East Midlands (Nottingham), Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Humberside, Leeds, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Masnton airport (Kent) Newcastle, Norwich, Prestwick, Southampton, Southend and Stansted.
Britain is a small country so you would not think of flying as your immediate choice of travel within the UK. However, congestion on Britain’s roads can make traveling by car a time consuming process and high petrol prices have made car travel an expensive business. With cheap flights regularly on offer it often makes more sense to fly.
For example, the journey from Edinburgh to London is 404 miles by car and would take you anywhere over 7 hours to travel. The flight time from London however is about an hour. There are approximately 20 flights a day to Scotland, leaving from London Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted (operated by British Airways and British Midland).
Airlines always want to see their aircrafts as full as possible so there are always deals available on flights. Always shop around to find the best deal and ask if there are any cheaper seats available.
There are numerous airlines and travel brokers offering cheap deals for flights, sites.
These tickets will usually be subject to certain conditions, like being non-transferable but if you book last minute you are usually certain about your travel dates anyway.
Cheap Flights and Special Offers
Special offer tickets are usually sold 3 days before a flight and at a huge discount because they are trying to fill the flight.
An apex ticket (advance purchase excursion) is an officially discounted ticket that you buy well in advance of your intended travel date, between 7 days and a month. There are restrictions with an Apex ticket, for example a minimum stay abroad and no stopovers. Despite this, the reduction in price can be up to 60% and well worth it if you are a flexible traveller.
If you are under 26 years of age, take advantage of Campus travel or STA travel who offer discounts for young travellers. Their websites have information on all their current deals and they will often offer a price match service for any flight that you find.
Luggage / Baggage
Luggage restrictions vary from airline to airline and according to the type of flight you are on. Some airlines will give you a limit on pieces of luggage or you will be given a weight restriction. If you exceed these limits you will be charged an additional fee for excess baggage.
The following information is a guide, you must check with your chosen airline for specific requirements on luggage.
There are size and weight limits in place for hand luggage. Most airlines will let you take two pieces of hand luggage which might be a travel bag and a handbag or laptop. The permitted dimensions of hand luggage are 56cm x 45cm x 25cm(22 x 17.5 x 9.85 inches) including wheels, handles and straps. A 23kg (51lbs) maximum bag weight limit applies and you must be able to lift your bag into the overhead lockers by yourself. Children may also be allowed a stroller or car seat as part of their luggage allowance.
When you pass through security, everything will be scanned. Electrical items have to be removed from your hand luggage and placed in a separate tray which then passes through an x-ray machine.
Checked baggage allowances also vary according to your destination, class of travel and the type of flight. For example British Airways will allow you 1 bag up to 23kg on a World traveler flight to Europe but you are allowed 2 bags on a World traveller flight to the USA.
Security at British airports is extremely tight. The threat of terrorism is taken very seriously and there are many restrictions for people using airports and airlines.
You are advised to put any liquids in your hold baggage, for example toothpaste, creams, lotions and gels. If you do want to take a liquid, gel or aerosol in your hand luggage then it must be in an individual container that is no larger than 100ml. All containers must be able to fit into a transparent re-sealable bag that is no larger than 20 x 20 cm. A freezer bag is quite commonly used for this purpose. Any substances that exceed these limits are confiscated during the security process and will not be returned.
Once you have passed the security checks, you can purchase liquids from duty free shopping and take these onto the plane.
Baby food and milk is allowed on planes but only an amount that is deemed necessary for the flight time. Parents may be asked to verify the safety of the food by tasting it in front of security officials.
You will need to show your passport to passport control whenever you arrive or depart from an airport. This includes flights within the country.
Online check-in is a service where you can check in using the internet. Online check in usually opens 24 -36 hours before departure and allows you to book your seat and print a boarding pass. In order to do this, you have to log on to the website of your chosen airline where you will be asked security questions and to enter details like your passport number. The advantage of online check in is that you can save time queuing at the airport to check in and get yourself a good seat on the plane. Not all airlines offer this service.
Short and long term parking is available at all major airports.
- London Heathrow Airport
- Manchester Airport
- London Stansted Airport
- London Luton Airport
- London Gatwick Airport
- London City Airport
- Liverpool Airport
- Robin Hood Airport
- Grimsby Binbrook Airport
- Newcastle Airport
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