Independent review – I am not in any way affiliated with Gatwick Airport, or any other UK airport.
Sometimes, you just want to have a little break from the UK, and that means you’ll likely have to fly. As an Essex resident, I am a comfortable driving distance from London’s six – count ’em, six – international airports: City, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Southend and Stanstead, and in the past few years, I’ve been able to fly from all of them. Now, after dipping a toe in all six international airports over the years, I can confidently say that I tend to fly from Gatwick, and here’s why.
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Though not boasting as many destinations as Heathrow, Gatwick flies non stop to over 150 locations in five continents. In comparison to airports like City and Southend, which primarily run flights within the UK and Europe, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stanstead offer flights out of Europe, and often at more appealing times in the day. Last year, Dan and I flew to Cancun, Mexico at around 10am, meaning we landed at about 2pm, arrived at our hotel by 4pm, and were able to settle in before a hectic week.
For all typical holiday destinations, Gatwick will almost definitely be an option appearing on your flight screen, especially if you’re booking through major travel companies like TUI or Thomas Cook.
All six airports offer road and rail links from the centre of London. If travelling by rail from central London, Gatwick Airport is a 30 minute journey from Victoria or London Bridge. From road, the airport is just off the M23, a motorway, but not permanently congested like Heathrow’s Junction 14 on the M25. For me, Gatwick, Heathrow and Stanstead airports are a similar driving time, so I have to make my choices based on parking.
Gatwick’s Long Stay car park is large, well signposted and always has spaces. Every time I’ve parked up at Gatwick and waited for the bus to the terminal, it’s only been a couple of minutes before I see it hurtling round the corner. Then, when preparing for the drive home, feeling sweaty and sleepy, it’s always there at the bus stop, waiting for us and our luggage.
In comparison to the other London airports, checking in bags and moving through security is like being Speedy Gonzales. Initially, I rationalised that it may be because I tend to pick morning flights, but on a morning flight from Luton to Rome, we waited in the security queue for near on 45 minutes with our carry on luggage.
Indeed, online check in and bag drop only desks have certainly sped up the pre-flight process, but some airports are simply more efficient. Stanstead and Luton’s lines can go on for what seems like hours, whereas Gatwick and Southend are well staffed to manage the influx of passengers. Gatwick’s security section is a vast room with numerous conveyor belts. The staff direct you to one of seven spots to load your belongings, and if all are being used, they create a new line behind to ease traffic. Although this is standard practice in London airports, and I assume many others around the UK, nowhere does it quite as successfully as Gatwick.
You’ll find yourself sipping coffee in the departures lounge in no time.
In 2018, Gatwick’s departures lounge started to undergo a revamp. The duty free area has expanded, offering a much broader range of mid to high range make-up, perfumes and alcohols. I saved buying make up until I hit the duty free section and I was able to update almost all my make up bag with Benefit gear.
The main area of the departures lounge is huge. You are almost certain to find a seat, and unlike at Luton, Southend, or Stanstead, you are almost certain to avoid being shoved or barged by another passenger while navigating the area. Yes, Gatwick is one of the busiest airports in the country, but I find that there is such a variety of shops and restaurants that the queues are relatively short, and those in charge have truly taken passenger comfort into consideration.
Despite being such a large airport, the gates are not an excessive distance from the departures area. Heathrow is so large that you can get lost, Luton and Stanstead require 10 minute walks – or in some cases a train ride – and as Southend and City are so small, their gates are practically in the departures area, meaning while you munch on your lunch, there could well be a queue of holiday makers standing on top of you.
There’s nothing worse than feeling icky and exhausted after a long flight home, and being forced to stand in an endless line to be allowed into your own country, when all you want to do is get into your own bed.
Much like the security section of Gatwick airport, passport control is definitely the quickest of the six London airports. Where I’ve stood for an eternity at Stanstead, every time I arrive at Gatwick, I’m through passport control in a matter of minutes.
So if you are local to the South East of England and considering a holiday abroad, or if you’re coming to visit London and aren’t sure which airport is the most convenient, select Gatwick for a hassle free experience. I always do!