London Heathrow vs London Gatwick – Which Airport is Best?

London Heathrow along with London Gatwick make up the UK’s two busiest airports. Both are operating at capacity, while they’re both looking to increase this capacity. However, which of the two airports is best? Simple Flying investigates.

Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Airport has more connections to central London. Photo: Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport is London and the UK’s main airport. The airport plays host to the flag carrier of the UK, in addition to welcoming a number of foreign airlines. However, Heathrow lacks low-cost carrier activity, which London Gatwick does not. Additionally, Heathrow is also more desirable to carriers. Let’s dissect the airports to find out which is the best, comparing connections to London, size, and variety.

Connections to London

In terms of connections to London, the two airports are vastly different. Gatwick is located 24 miles south of London, and is accessible by both the Gatwick Express and mainline Thameslink trains. It takes around half an hour to get into London using the Gatwick Express, however mainline trains may take longer, but connect to more destinations past London such as Peterborough and Luton.

On the other hand, London Heathrow is only 13 miles west of the city centre. As such, the time taken to reach the airport is around 15-20 minutes on the Heathrow Express. The Heathrow Express can be pricey, however there is also TFL Rail, and the Piccadilly Line taking passengers into London for less. Soon, the airport should be connected to the Elizabeth Line, providing direct connections across London. Given these facts, it seems like Heathrow is certainly the winner in terms of London connections.

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London Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Airport is home to British Airways, the UK flag carrier. Photo: Heathrow Airport

Size

Measuring the airports in terms of size also gives a clear winner. According to CAA statistics, in 2018 Heathrow Airport carried a total of 80,124,537 passengers across 477,604 aircraft movements. Gatwick had just over half of this figure at 46,086,089 passengers with 283,919 aircraft movements.

While London Gatwick is aiming to be able to use its spare runway in the future, right now it has only one useable runway. London Heathrow, on the other hand, has two permanent runways and is currently trying to secure a third. Finally, Heathrow Airport has an impressive five terminals, compared to Gatwick’s two. As such, Heathrow airport wins on size.

Variety

Variety is a close call. While Heathrow Airport undoubtedly has much more variety with more long-range international carriers, London Gatwick has a wider variety of types of operations. Indeed, Heathrow lacks the low-cost element of Gatwick Airport, which sees operations by Ryanair, Easyjet, and Vueling. As such, It is a draw between the two.

London Gatwick Airport
London Gatwick has low-cost operations, which London Heathrow does not. Photo: Gatwick Airport

The best airport for UK travelers often comes down to where they want to go and who they are flying with. Where they are coming from in the UK can also make a difference. While there are many more factors to be considered, it seems like London Heathrow is the clear winner with the criteria we have investigated.

Which airport do you prefer flying from? Let us know in the comments!

6 comments
  1. Heathrow is great if flying in and out on BA, otherwise I avoid Heathrow if at all possible. Big, crowded and inefficient. Gatwick is more efficient and a more pleasant experience

    1. I disagree, I flew out of Terminal 2 on Sunday evening and I thought it was just fine. I’m sure at times it sure can be crowded, but I was impressed by the terminal as a whole and enjoyed my time there as I had a couple of hours to wait before boarding. That being said, I’ve never used any of the other terminals, so for all I know they could be congested. From my experience though Terminal 2 is good, no complaints

  2. I would like to see the 3rd runway scrapped at Heathrow. Having flown out of Gatwick and Heathrow, Gatwick wins hands down for me. A much more pleasant airport. 2nd runway at Gatwick makes much more sense.

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