Probably the best kept travel secret is Southern Trains advance fare, bookable on the Internet, of £3 to and from Gatwick Airport. The journey takes only a minute or two more than the Gatwick Express and the trains are just as comfortable. This fare is more than five times cheaper than a one way fare on the Gatwick Express.
The past week has seen the DLR train connection to London City Airport closed for line upgrades. Before setting off to the airport, it is wise to check online at www.tfl.gov.uk or www.londoncityairport.com to check for travel disruptions. There are replacement bus services in place but you should give yourself an extra half an hour if taking these to allow for delays and traffic
This week's heavy snowfall has reminded me of the fragility of the UK transport system. When weather is bad, it's worth remembering to check your airport's website to see if your flight has been cancelled or not.
BAA, operator of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted (www.baa.com) offer a flight text service to keep you informed on the status of your flight.
Air travel today is increasingly associated with long queues, dire customer service and delays on the ground and in the air. There is one airport that seems to consistently dispel this every time I travel there. That is, London City Airport. 22 minutes from Bank and about 12 minutes from Canary Wharf on the DLR, London City airport has flights to numerous European and domestic destinations. In addition, BA will be starting transatlantic flights (business class only) from London city in the summer!
Check-in (with luggage) can be done an hour before the flight and I've even managed it 20 minutes before the flight! Security queues are short and efficient. The airport does not have all of the facilities you would find at the larger airports such as numerous shops, lounges, etc, but at the end of the day it does what you want - helps you to get from A to B.
A number of the hotels surrounding Heathrow Airport offer good deals on car parking. This means that should you want to park your car at Heathrow - it can be a similar cost to get a night in the hotel and parking as just parking on its own! Contact the hotels directly for further deals and details.
Hotels surrounding Heathrow airport (and other airports around the country)
Beat the queues at immigration when returning to the UK by registering for the IRIS immigration passport. Here you can waltz through immigration by getting your iris scanned, waving goodbye to queues. Tip: be careful with any luggage you have. If you are pulling a small suitcase it can often be mistaken for a very small person. There is usually someone to hand who can help you or let you through anyway. At least you tried!
Registration details can be found on the www.baa.com website with locations and opening hours of the IRIS desks (The desk at T3 is just to the right of the immigration check before the shops).
...yes there is one. Most people arriving are EU citizens anyway and the non-citizens queue (on the right) is out of bounds, but there is a way. Choose the far right hand queue of the seven or so normal EU queues when you exit the train from the terminals - this is next to the non-EU desks and here there is always double the manning of every other EU queue. Works every time.
We've all heard the stories. You get off a long-haul flight, queue at immigration and when you think you're finally there... you discover that your suitcase has been damaged in transit. Whilst cursing under your breath may make you feel better. Remember that you can actually claim back off the airlines and get them to replace the suitcase. Make sure you fill in a claim form and ideally keep the receipt for your luggage and take photos to prove its condition. Full details can be found on the relevant airline's website
Claim counter at baggage collection
Many long-haul Asian and transatlantic flights land early in the morning. Whilst this is not so much a problem during the week, on Sundays I've found myself waiting outside the locked underground station waiting for it to open (with no information to go by and no one around to help), particularly when my flight lands early. To save you some time and worry, here are the details:
First tube - Heathrow T 1,2,3
Sun - 0553
First tube - Heathrow T 5
Sun - 0558
Note the first Heathrow Express trains are: T5/T1, 2, 3
Sun - 0503/0508
Note first T4 departure is 0553 on Sundays
Note the first Heathrow Connect trains are: T4/T1, 2, 3
Sun - 0607/0613
It's a little-known fact but if you are a BMI gold card holder, and are flying on Virgin Atlantic (any class) out of London Heathrow, you are able to use their award-winning Virgin Atlantic clubhouse. The clubhouse is world-renowned with a beauty therapist, hairdressers, full bar and restaurant and games area. Those who want to bring in a guest may look at the virginholidays website where guest passes can be purchased for £60.
It's a little known fact but BAA operated airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh and Glasgow to name a few) offer a money back/price guarantee on goods purchased at their airports. This can be great when faced with the uncertainty of picking up a bargain at the airport or waiting to you get to your destination to see if things are cheaper. To qualify, you just need to purchase using BAA's loyalty card - Worldpoints. Sign up online for bonus points and easy registration www.baa.com/worldpoints
In my experience, online currency ordering via www.travelex.co.uk gives you the best rate (they also have a best rate guarantee). Order online and pick up at the airport. Just be wary that some debit card providers charge a 'cash advance' fee - however, Switch cards do not incur such a fee. My tip would be to order via www.baa.com/worldpoints and get the same great rate but also collect worldpoints (which you can use for frequent flyer miles or discounts). Remember to present your card when collecting the currency.
If anyone is needing a cab from anywhere in central/greater London to any London Airport this company has a great website with all information including very fair prices based on postcodes. The website is so simple, its beautiful! Replies to emails are prompt and friendly.
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