If you have a job which involves lots of European travel and you need to be close to an airport this grid might help you decide where to locate yourself.
Understanding The Grid
Departure airports are shown along the top. Destination airports are shown on the left side. The cost of a return flight between airports is shown in GBP at the intersecting block.
Green Square Great, Orange Ok
- Green squares – Great, the outward leg leaves prior to 9am Monday and returns after 4pm Thursday.
- Orange squares – Not ideal, the outward leg departs after 9am, or the return leg departs before 4pm.
- Black square – No direct flight. There may be indirect flights but these have been disregarded.
Out Monday Morning Back Thursday Evening
The cost shown is for a flight heading out on Monday morning and returning Thursday early evening, booked seven days in advance.
Bear in mind that the prices shown are only indicative. They can vary depending on demand, proximity to departure date and a host of other factors.
Rating The Airports – The Blue Row
Green squares are worth two points. Orange squares are worth one point. One point is subtracted if the ticket cost exceeds £200. The overall scores are displayed below the grid in the blue row. Gatwick scored twenty eight out of a maximum thirty two available, Heathrow scored twenty seven and Luton twenty five.
Gatwick Reigns Supreme
Gatwick wins, it has flights with good departure times to every city on the list.
Perhaps not the most modern airport in the world, but with a great range of destinations it’s hard to beat.
Convenient bases would be Brighton, Lewes, Haywards Heath and anywhere on the Brighton to London line. Anywhere South of London really.
Heathrow – Great for West London
Heathrow is number two, marked down for a couple of pricey flights, but if your expenses are covered this is probably not a major issue. I personally prefer Gatwick, because there are less terminals to navigate and shorter distance to the gates. This is not really an issue if arriving by taxi.
Anywhere In West and Southwest London is good for Heathrow. Woking, Guildford and Basingstoke are all viable options outside London. Oxford is within 45 minutes too.
Luton, A Well Served Tin Shed
Luton comes in a surprising third place. If memory serves it’s a glorified tin shed, but with Easyjet flying out of here you’ve got most of Europe covered.
Close to Hatfield, Welwyn, Milton Keynes and St Albans. Good access from a wealth of towns north of London.
Stansted comes in number four. Only 38 minutes to get there from Colchester, even closer from Chelsmford. And Bury St Edmunds is 50 mins drive away. Hits most of the major European destinations.
Manchester – Good Routes, Bad Times
Manchester comes in a debatable 5th. My judging system marks it down on some expensive flights and inconvenient departure times. When searching a week in advance, seven of the fourteen flights available are over the £200 mark. It also gets marked down for imperfect flight times, with a lot of the return flights being in the morning. This means an extra night in the hotel for no real reason.
Birmingham is 6th, with good departure times to most of the locations. Vienna, Milan, Geneva andLisbon aren’t served but if you can get by without these you’re ok.
Leeds airport, City airport and Cardiff airport are the stragglers in the list.
Bristol airport has a decent selection of routes but some of the outbound flights leave later in the morning, making for a later arrival.
Bristol and Cardiff airports
Is it possible to base yourself out of Bristol and rely on Bristol airport, with Cardiff filling in the gaps? Unfortunately not because Cardiff just offers a smaller subset of what Bristol offers without addressing the bad outward departure times.
Manchester and Leeds airports
Manchester airport has enough routes to make it a viable option, so long as the departure and arrival times don’t cause too many issues. Leeds, being only an hour from Manchester would ideally offerslightly different times, but only the Barcelona route is improved. Jet2, Flybe, Ryanair, KLM, Lufthansa and a host of other airlines fly from these airports
Luton and Birmingham airports
If you’re based just north of Luton then you’re probably within a reasonable distance of Birmingham too.
Luton has great coverage with a few notable gaps, notably Brussels and Frankfurt.
Lufthansa and Brussels airlines fly out of Birmingham and cover these two gaps at Luton.
Basing yourself somewhere between these two airports gives you very good coverage of the main cities in Europe.
Stansted and City airport
Close to Gatwick or Heathrow is probably the way to go, they have the best coverage with direct flights to every city on the list. No surprise there.
Other Factors To Consider
Accessibility to the airport is important to consider. Gatwick has great rail access from various points in Sussex for example. Heathrow is connected to central London by tube, but that isn’t the most rapid route.
Queues can also be a big factor. At City Airport everyone knows the drill, whereas getting through security at Heathrow can be a nightmare.
There’s a lot to be said for the ease of navigating a smaller airport. At larger airports you might have a 20 minute walk to a certain gate, whilst at smaller provincial airports you can walk the length of the airport in 5 minutes.
It’s also worth assessing the different carriers at each airport. Most people I know have at least one nightmare story.
Best Flight Search Website
In searching for the best flights I tried Opodo and Kayak, both of which were ok. But Skyscanner is the way to go. The sliders for changing the required times are better than Opodo. They also show some airlines which Opodo seemed to be ignoring.