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Summary: (Bullet points to remember)
Most airlines set a minimum connecting time of three hours for 'connecting ticketed flights'. (Meaning same airline on both legs). Having connecting tickets means the airline is responsible for you if the connection is not made. Your airline MUST rebook the next available flight for you FREE of charge and must pay expenses for hotels, food etc if required.
When using different airlines, you might want to consider four hours your minimum as neither airline, nor transfer operator, will asume responsibility for a missed connection, and all expenses would be at the passengers expense.
These minimum times are sometimes unrealistic, particularly with recent security measures, and in weekday morning or evening rush hour allow another hour if you are travelling by coach. The minimum connection time allows one hour for customs and check-in at each airport, and another hour for collecting luggage and making the journey between the airports. (Typically a 45-50 minute car journey).
WARNING: IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING ON A MONDAY MORNING, FRIDAY or SUNDAY AFTERNOON / EVENING, ADD AT LEAST ANOTHER HOUR TO YOUR JOURNEY TIME, MAKING A MINIMUM OF FOUR/FIVE HOURS!
Note: If you have a booked through flights (typically British Airways or Virgin) between Heathrow and Gatwick, then the online booking engine should have allowed sufficient time for you to make the connection (minimum of 3 hours). If you miss a connection booked through one airline, then the airline is responsible for flying you on the next available flight. If you are considering trying to connect flights e.g., between one airline at one airport, and another airline at the another, then you need to give as much time as possible between flights, or even consider staying overnight at an airport hotel near your departure airport. By road, London Heathrow and London Gatwick airports are about 40 miles apart. The route is all motorways, but delays often occur.
The only direct public transport link is by road, via National Express coaches , there is no direct rail link. Coaches are generally very frequent from all terminals (hundreds of coaches per day), but note that there is a 15 minute walk to the bus station from Terminals 1 or 3 and do check the website for timetables. The fare is around £35 one-way, per person, but can be cheaper when booked in advance online (Fares as cheap as £25 per person). Be aware some tickets have times on them so this could cause problems if delayed.
Coaches only allow a maximum of 2 medium size suitcases per person. Larger or heavy suitcases, folding bikes and bike boxes, skis and surfboards etc. are carried at the discretion of the coach driver and on space available under the coach. Bikes must be packaged like that required by the airlines. No animals except guide dogs.
(Same rules apply with London Taxis, but most private hire firms can cater for these larger items when booked in advance - see below)
(Pre-booked Taxis/Licenced Private Hire Drivers & Minicabs/Mini Buses)
The fastest route is by pre-booked Licenced Private Hire Company, (Pre-booked Licenced Taxi or Minibus). Without traffic congestion the fastest transfer can be achieved in around 45 minutes. Look up " London Air Connections" online - plenty of choice...
Most transfer companies offer advance payment and booking facilities, saving you having to change currency into UK Sterling at the airport and wasting time. Dollars and Euro's are not generally accepted in the UK. (Most London Black Taxis accept cards too). If you pre pay, often the fare will be an all-inclusive price too! Most credit card bookings are guaranteed and are covered by your insurance when you are purchasing directly by card with a company in the UK, which means if you complain about the vendor, the card company will investigate your complaint for you. (Debit card companies do not always, so ask your bank before you use a Debit card!).
NOTE: It is not standard for Private Taxi, Car Service, Limo or Minicab drivers to accept credit/debit cards in their vehicles. So if you don't pay by card in advance, you will almost certainly have to change money into UK Sterling and pay cash if you want to pay on the day. (There are ATM's at all terminals in Heathrow and Gatwick, so this may not be a serious problem, just a bit more time eaten up!)
Generally local minicab companies not specializing in airport transfers don't accept credit cards readily, and you will need to pay cash in UK Sterling to cover the fare, as you can't prepay. Using a currency desk at the airport can be time consuming, but there are ATM's available in most arrival halls. Obviously this takes time up, and if you happen to forget local currency your taxi will have to search at your destination for an ATM before letting you go into the terminal for your onwards flight more time will be eaten away.
Fares of around £55-£60 are advertised online, but this is for a standard saloon car (small!) and often there are hidden charges, such as Meet & Greet fees, driver waiting charges and additional car parking fees, etc. so check before booking - larger vehicles cost extra, and the advertised "Saloon" car are often not suitable for a family of 4 and several large suitcases... a Minivan will often cost about 50% more, but might be worth the expense if you have more than 3 cases. Expect a charge of £85-90 for a family of four, as this is about the average genuine cost...
You will get the best price by booking in advance.
Competition is fierce and advertised headline rates by taxi companies can be very, very misleading.
The most common extras to look for in the small print are:
- surcharges for paying by anything other than cash.
- car parking, which can go up sharply after a small 'free' period.
- 'meet and greet' charges.
- waiting time (remember the average traveller will take 45-60 minutes to clear customs) many companies start charging after 30 minutes
- not enough luggage capacity requiring an upgrade or extra car.
- rescheduling your pick up if your flight is delayed or when your flight is cancelled.
Things to look out for when booking a ride online:
A few licensed online specialist London airport connections companies are 'all-inclusive', others have hidden small print and extra charges, so check properly before you book.
Also check you have a full UK address before you book - many websites have no real contact details!
Lastly check they have a fixed land line telephone number.
- Fixed land-line telephone numbers, in London, start 020**** or +4420**** from overseas.
- If you see a number starting 07*** or +447*** it's a mobile telephone!!
- If it starts 0845*** or +44845**** it a purchase and divert number - not necessarily a problem, but check there's an address before booking. This also applies to number starting 03*** or +4403*** in the UK anywhere.
By Licensed Private Hire Car, Licensed Taxi or Minicab the journey will take about 45 minutes. If the main motorway is congested it could take much longer, taxi drivers may know detours or have traffic-details on GPS but often there is little choice but to sit it out.
- Arrival Terminal to Car Park: 5 minutes
- Actual Journey: 45 minutes
- Drop off to Departures: 5 minutes
Very few road trips taken during day time will not experience some level of traffic congestion though. Journeys between 07:00 and 9:00 and 16:30 and 19:00 can take up to 90 minutes by road. Avoid transferring on Monday mornings and Friday and Sunday afternoons when traffic levels are higher if at all possible.
Most airlines suggest a minimum of three hours between scheduled arrival and departure time when travelling between these two airports, but bear in mind this is a minimum and flights do get delayed. Also British passport control lines can be long, especially for non-European passport holders at Heathrow. At both Heathrow and Gatwick it takes on average about 45-75 minutes from landing to clearing customs with luggage.
As an alternative to a rushed transfer, you could stay overnight near your departure airport, and eliminate the risk and stress of the transfer. Check on TripAdvisor for some airport hotels, some have amazing deals and include a transfer to your terminal when you check out. An overnight stay could save you a missed flight, a bit of stress and perhaps a bit of jet-lag, plus there might be time for a civilized breakfast.
(Heathrow & Gatwick Taxi ranks)
At Heathrow: London Black Taxi cabs can be found in ranks outside all Heathrow terminals and will transport to Gatwick. They will take disabled passengers and accept credit cards. They also can take a great deal of luggage. The cost will likely exceed £100 and you could find a longer wait for one at peak times..
At Gatwick: Black Taxi cabs can only pick up at Gatwick if they are there for an advance booking. There are other Licensed taxi services available from Gatwick, though. If you have not prebooked, go to the Airport information desk for assistance. Fares vary depending on number of passengers, amount of luggage and time of day.Can be slightly cheaper than London Black Taxis but not by much. (See Heathrow above)
There is no direct rail service, to go by rail you must go via central London, train - tube or taxi - then train. Since the road route will normally be quicker and certainly more straightforward, there are two reasons to go via this route: to avoid rush hour traffic, and to save money.
Fastest route (by train)
The fastest rail route is as follows:
Total cost: £33.20, travel time at least 1 hour 40 minutes if connections are instant with no waiting for trains to arrive. Sometimes this journey can be significantly longer.
Obviously this is rarely going to be a sensible option given the alternative of the road route, and involves steps and escalators, so if you have baggage or children this might not be practical. It's rare that it will be faster than going by road. Given the cost it's really not recommended, as it approaches the cost of a minicab.
(Not for the faint of heart!)
An 'obvious' route between Gatwick and Heathrow is to take the Underground, but this only gets you into London (Victoria) and then it's back on the Train (or Gatwick Express) again.
The route from Heathrow is Piccadilly Line to Barons Court, cross-platform change for District Line to Victoria, and then take the train to Gatwick Airport from Victoria. From Heathrow buy a one-day off-peak zone1-6 travelcard for £8.50, and then at Victoria rail station buy an East Croydon - Gatwick Airport single (£4.90) = £13.40. This is not valid on the Gatwick Express services.
(If leaving Heathrow before 9:30 weekdays, then buy a single to Victoria for £5.30 and then at Victoria buy two singles: Victoria - East Croydon and East Croydon Gatwick for £10.20 each
Journey time to Victoria is around 45 minutes, and then add on 10 minutes to change trains and 35 minutes to reach Gatwick Airport from Victoria. The journey is less comfortable than the coach given the complexity of the interchange at Victoria.
From Gatwick Airport you could buy the same tickets - Gatwick Airport - East Croydon and zone 1-6 off-peak travelcard, or Gatwick - East Croydon, East Croydon - Victoria, Victoria - Heathrow singles.
Note that this is basically the same route as the Heathrow Express/Gatwick Express but using slightly slower, much cheaper travel options.
via Clapham Junction and Feltham:
Trains run from Gatwick to Clapham Junction in 24 minutes and then from Clapham Junction to Feltham in 18 minutes. From Feltham you can take bus number 285 to Heathrow T1/T3 or bus number 490 T4 and T5. Journey time from Gatwick to Feltham is around one hour depending on your connection, and then 24 minutes T3, 15 minutes to T4, or 29 minutes to T5.
From Heathrow, board the bus to Feltham (£2.30 single, or £1.35 using Oyster), at Feltham buy a single ticket to East Croydon (£4.10, specify 'not via London'), and a single ticket from East Croydon to Gatwick Airport (£4.90)
From Gatwick: buy a single Gatwick-East Croydon and East Croydon-Feltham both at Gatwick airport station, and then pay on board/use Oyster for the bus at Feltham.
Total cost £11.30, or £10.35 using Oyster for the bus.
Note that you do not get off at East Croydon, although the train will pass through there.
If travelling in a group of three or more, at off-peak times (after 9:30am), then a Groupsave Travelcard will prove cheaper, from Gatwick towards Heathrow. With Groupsave three or four travel for the price of two. The fare is £14.40 for an Off-Peak Southern-Only One-Day Travelcard, but with 3 or 4 for the price of two adults, equivalent to £9.60 or £7.20 per person.
Coming in the reverse direction, you would have to pay for the bus from Heathrow to Feltham and subsequently Groupsave on the £14.30 Feltham - Gatwick Airport ticket would be the best option for a group of four adults, coming in at £9.45 per person.
The cheapest (slow) walk-up route:
The cheapest route between Heathrow and Gatwick is not direct.
Cheapest route in advance:
Another interesting route between Gatwick and Heathrow is on the Easybus. This runs from Gatwick to Earls Court in 65 minutes. Fares are starting from £2 (early morning or late at night) booked, but up to £13 on the day. From Earls Court to Heathrow it's 36 minutes direct by Tube at a cost of £5.50 cash, £2.70 peak/£1.50 off-peak using Oyster. Total cost is therefore as little as £3.50. However you must book in advance.