A Guide to Airports in England

airplane in the sky over Tower Bridge in central london
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While many international travelers fly in and out of London's massive Heathrow International Airport, England actually has numerous international airports dotted all over the country. Many of the smaller airports only operate flights between other European countries, but they can be a good choice for travelers who prefer a less stressful airport experience or who are headed to British destinations that aren't near London.

There are five major airports in London, as well as eight other international airports in cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol. Here's what you need to know about England's airports.

Heathrow International Airport (LHR)

  • Location: 15 miles west of London in Hounslow.
  • Best If: You are flying internationally, especially to and from the U.S.
  • Avoid If: You are flying domestically, or want to avoid the hassle of crowds and long lines.
  • Distance to Central London: The center of London is 20 minutes via Heathrow Express train, or 45-60 minutes via taxi or Uber, depending on the traffic. Taxis run between 60 and 80 pounds, but you can get an Uber for as low as 35 pounds.

Heathrow is England's largest and busiest airport, featuring five terminals, which are connected by shuttles and trains. It's located close to London, with access via public transportation, including the Heathrow Express train, local trains, and the London Underground. Many international flights transit through Heathrow on the way to various other destinations, including Europe and the Middle East, and the transfer system is fairly easy to follow, although will require some walking and time.

It's an expansive airport and often has long lines at check-in and security on weekends and over holidays, so be prepared to arrive early and deal with crowds. Most large airlines serve Heathrow, which is a hub for British Airways, so you won't have trouble finding a flight to and from the airport. It's the best choice for international travelers coming from the U.S. and often has the cheapest flight deals compared with other U.K. airports.

London Gatwick Airport (LGW)

  • Location: 30 miles south of central London.
  • Best If: You are flying from London to Europe.
  • Avoid If: You are staying or traveling north of London.
  • Distance to Central London: Gatwick is approximately an hour taxi ride to the center of London, although it's quicker (about 35 minutes) if you take the Gatwick Express train to Victoria or London Bridge station. A taxi will cost around 100 pounds, although an Uber may be cheaper.

Gatwick is London's second busiest airport, although it isn't used by all U.S. airlines. It has two main terminals, one of which is a hub for EasyJet. It tends to be most popular for travelers going to and from Europe, especially on budget airlines, and it can get quite busy during holiday periods. The airport has good amenities, with lots of restaurants and a few airline lounges, and it's fairly easy to access from London by train. Those traveling from the U.S. to London will likely not use Gatwick unless you have a connecting flight through a European airport.

Commercial aircraft on runway
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London Stansted Airport (STN)

  • Location: 35 miles northeast of central London.
  • Best If: You are looking for budget airline fares.
  • Avoid If: You're staying in or traveling to south London.
  • Distance to Central London: Stansted is about an hour-and-a-half-drive to central London via taxi, costing around 100 pounds. The Stansted Express train runs to London’s Liverpool Street Station for a quicker and cheaper option.

Stansted, found to the north of London, is the third busiest airport in London. It's a hub for budget carriers flying to and from Europe, including EasyJet and Ryanair. It's a relatively small airport, with only one terminal, and it's not the best choice for those who want to use an airport lounge or access a lot of shopping and dining options. Transportation to and from Stansted can be challenging unless you have a rental car, although there is the Stansted Express to Liverpool Street in east London. Opt for this airport when you are traveling to and from European destinations and want to save some money.

London Luton (LLA)

  • Location: 35 miles north of central London in Luton
  • Best If: You're staying north of London, or traveling north via car
  • Avoid If: You like airports with amenities and a larger selection of flights
  • Distance to Central London: Luton is about an hour’s drive from central London by taxi (about £80). Public transportation options include trains and coach buses, although Luton isn't the most accessible airport via public transport.

London Luton is located in Luton, north of the city, and it can be very busy despite only having one terminal. It's a hub for budget airlines heading to Europe, including Ryanair, Tui, and Wizz Air. It's not a favorite amongst local travelers, although Luton has a solid selection of restaurants, shops, and duty-free items. There's also a pay-as-you-go executive lounge and free Wi-Fi. Getting to and from Luton from central London can be a challenging and expensive endeavor, especially if your flight is early in the morning or late at night. Look for East Midlands Trains or Thameslink trains into London, which takes about 45 minutes.

London City Airport (LCY)

  • Location: 6 miles east of central London.
  • Best If: You want quick access to London.
  • Avoid If: You need lots of flight options.
  • Distance to Central London: London City Airport is basically in London, so it's quick to take a taxi to the center of town (about 20 minutes and 45 pounds). Other options include the Tube or a bus, as well as Uber.

London City Airport is very small, but it's also very central. It's located only a few miles from the center of town, making it quick to catch a cab or the Tube to get your flight. It's useful if you're flying to other cities in the U.K. including Edinburgh, or to European destinations like Amsterdam or Santorini. There are a few good shops and restaurants, and a first-class lounge that's available for a fee. Flights to and from the U.S. connect through Dublin, making it a good option for international visitors, especially those coming from New York City, Chicago, or Boston.

Manchester Airport (MAN)

  • Location: 10 miles south of central Manchester.
  • Best If: You are staying in or around Manchester.
  • Avoid If: You are traveling to or from many cities in the U.S.
  • Distance to Central Manchester: Manchester Airport is about 27 minutes from central Manchester by taxi or Uber. Alternatively, you can take the Metrolink tram service, a train, or a bus.

Manchester Airport is a large international airport with three terminals, serving the areas around Northwest England, including Liverpool and the Peak District. It's not quite as busy as Heathrow, but during holiday periods and over the summer Manchester Airport can be bustling. It's the U.K.'s third-largest airport, offering flights to more than 200 destinations, mostly in Europe and the Middle East.

There are flights to and from U.S. destinations regularly scheduled at Manchester Airport, but it's not the best pick if you're coming from somewhere other than a coastal city. Travelers mainly use Manchester Airport to access holiday spots around Europe, as well as Dubai. British Airways, Air Canada, Delta, American Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic are among the airlines that operate out of the airport.

Manchester Airport

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Birmingham Airport (BHX)

  • Location: 7 miles east of Birmingham city center.
  • Best If: You are traveling around central England.
  • Avoid If: You are only visiting London or southern England.
  • Distance to Central Birmingham: The airport is only a 20-minute drive via taxi from central Birmingham, costing about 35 pounds. There are also regular direct trains to Birmingham New Street station from the airport.

Birmingham Airport is an international airport located near Birmingham, Coventry, and Leicester. It has good links to transportation, making it an ideal choice if you're visiting a destination in central England. The airport is connected to Birmingham International Station, and there are also buses, taxis, and car rentals available. Numerous airlines fly into Birmingham—including British Airways, Lufthansa, and KLM—and many offer connecting flights through Europe to and from the U.S. There are several paid lounges, a good amount of food options, and express security lines. There are also three hotels directly at the airport, which is helpful for travelers with early or late flights.

Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA)

  • Location: 7 miles northwest of Leeds in Yeadon.
  • Best If: You are visiting somewhere in Yorkshire.
  • Avoid If: You want to fly direct to the U.S.
  • Distance to Central Leeds: A taxi to Leeds city center is about 30 minutes, costing 23 pounds. Alternatively, travelers can take a FLYER bus from the airport to Leeds Train Station, which has numerous connections.

Leeds Bradford primarily offers direct flights to Europe, as well as a few destinations around the U.K. like Jersey and Southampton. It hosts several airlines, including Ryanair, KLM, and Tui, and features three pay-as-you-go lounges. It's a relatively small airport, although there's a solid selection of restaurants and shops. Because of the small size, it usually doesn't take long to complete check-in and go through security. This airport is ideal for those connecting to or from the U.S., or who are traveling from the U.K. onward to Europe, as there are no direct flights to the States. The best connections are via Dublin with Aer Lingus and via Amsterdam with KLM.

Bristol Airport (BRS)

  • Location: 7 miles southwest of Bristol city center.
  • Best If: You are visiting Bristol or nearby Wales.
  • Avoid If: You are staying in the north of England.
  • Distance to Central Bristol: Private taxi company Arrow Cars takes about 25 minutes to the center of Bristol, with a standard car costing 32 pounds. There are also several Bristol Airport Flyer Express Bus services that connect with both Bristol and its surrounding areas.

Bristol Airport has a lot of flight options, including direct flights to Orlando and Cancun. It's easy to navigate with only one terminal, and it's a good pick for those heading to destinations like Bath, Cardiff, and Cornwall as there are National Express bus connections available from the airport. Bristol Airport has good amenities, including brand-name shops and eateries, and an Aspire Lounge. Those with an early flight can book into the Hampton by Hilton Bristol Airport, which is connected to the airport.

Newcastle Airport (NCL)

  • Location: A few miles northwest of Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • Best If: You are visiting Northeast England.
  • Avoid If: You are visiting Southwest England.
  • Distance to Central Newcastle: Arrow Cars taxi service drops passengers off in the city center in less than 15 minutes for around 20 pounds. The Tyne and Wear Metro connects the airport with Newcastle, as well as Sunderland and Gateshead.

Newcastle Airport is a mid-sized international airport with flights to over 70 destinations, mostly in Europe (although connections are available to major U.S. cities like New York). It's connected by public transportation, including trains and a local light rail system, to several nearby cities, including Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, and North Tyneside. While the airport is relatively small, it can get busy, especially during holiday periods. There are several restaurants and shops, including duty-free, and there is an Aspire Lounge, as well as a British Airways Lounge. This airport is a good pick for travelers to the Northeast, and because it's so central to Newcastle it's easily accessible.

East Midlands Airport (EMA)

  • Location: Southeast of Derby in Castle Donington.
  • Best If: You are visiting central England.
  • Avoid If: You want a direct flight to the U.S.
  • Distance to Central Derby: Use Arrow Cars taxi service for a 20-minute journey to central Derby, which costs around 35 pounds, or opt for one of the Skylink buses into the city.

East Midlands Airport is an international airport that services central England cities like Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, and Lincoln. There are four train stations near the airport, which can be accessed by the Skylink bus from the terminal, so travelers don't need to be rent a car to reach their destination. The airport has one terminal with a moderate selection of shops and restaurants, and there is an Escape Lounge available for travelers to enter for a fee. Numerous hotels can be found within minutes of the terminal, including a Holiday Inn Express and a Radisson Blu. East Midlands Airport is best for those heading onward to Europe or connecting to the U.S. through Dublin on Aer Lingus.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LPL)

  • Location: In Liverpool 6 miles southeast of the city center.
  • Best If: You are staying in Liverpool.
  • Avoid If: You are flying to or from the U.S.
  • Distance to Central Liverpool: Look for Hackney Cabs outside the terminal, which will get you into the city center in under 20 minutes for around 15 to 20 pounds. Buses are also available, several of which connect at nearby Liverpool South Parkway rail station.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport is an international airport, but it's best for flights around Europe and the U.K. It is mainly used by budget airlines like Wizz Air, EasyJet, and Ryanair. Security lines are notoriously quick, and it's the sort of airport you don't need to get to super early. There are some decent food options even the airport is very small, and travelers can head to the Aspire Lounge or pay for FastTrack security.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA)

  • Location: 3 miles southeast of Doncaster.
  • Best If: You are staying in South Yorkshire.
  • Avoid If: You don't want to fly on a budget airline.
  • Distance to Central Sheffield: Little Arrow taxi service takes about 40 minutes into central Sheffield, costing 35 pounds. Buses are available to Doncaster train station, which has trains to Sheffield, as well as York, London, and Newcastle.

Located in South Yorkshire, Doncaster Sheffield Airport is an international airport close to Doncaster. Besides offering flights to many European destinations, the airport also has direct flights to Cancun and Florida. It's a relatively new and modern airport, with a premium lounge and a few sit-down restaurants. It's a hub for Wizz Air, making the airport a good pick for those looking for budget flights, especially to holiday spots in Greece or Spain.