Night Flights to London: Which airport is best?

By David Mumford

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There are a whole host of factors which can make flights to the London area a headache – particularly at night. The smaller airports close early in the evening (for example EGTK/Oxford, EGLF/Farnborough), few business jet want to go to EGLL/Heathrow or EGKK/Gatwick (costs and slots), and most cannot go to EGLC/London City due to training and approval.

A few summers ago we put out a post about slots into London Airports. Or rather, the lack of them. Updated noise restrictions and curfews, along with ever busier airports, meant the chances of getting into a London airport in a corporate jet were pretty limited…

Well, now it is winter 2020 and as you know, there is a lot less scheduled commercial flying going on. 

London airports are currently wide open. Sort of.

Covid has had two impacts:

  1. There are lot fewer airline flights into the major airports. Historically, the major airlines had to use slots to keep them, but now that restriction has been lifted. So, airports have slots.
  2. The second big impact is the reduction in staff, additional restrictions, cleaning requirements and checks. So slots are a bit more restricted. On top of that, the noise restrictions during the night period means that there are still less slots, if any, available during certain times.

Here is a quick rundown of availability as told by the FBOs:

EGLL/London Heathrow
Open: H24
They have slots a-plenty between 0600 to 2245z but it’s still hard to get in here at night because of the quota system.
For urgent slots you can try lonacxh@acl-uk.org. For General and Business Aviation, you can arrange slots through a local handler.

EGKK/London Gatwick
Open: H24
The slot system is showing a fair number available, but word on the street is that some of the main operators are slot hoarding, and things are quite changeable, so best bet is to contact a local handler and they will try to sort you out. 

EGSS/London Stansted
Open: 06:00 – 21:00 (can accommodate flights outside these times with enough notice)
Over the winter schedule, you should have no problem getting a night slot (it’s normally the summer where they are heavily restricted to 20 slots a week for the airport).
They do have planned maintenance on the runway, which starts in April but that aside there is good slot availability.

EGLC/London City
Open: 06:30 – 22:00 (weekdays), 06:30 – 12:30 Saturday and 12:30 – 21:00 Sunday
There are slots available between those times. jetcentre@londoncityairport.com are who you need to speak to for handling and slot assistance there.

EGTK/London Oxford
Open: 06:00 – 22:30 (and up to 23:59 on request) seven days a week
The thing you probably want to know about Oxford is while it takes just over an hour to drive to London, making it the furthest away of all the “London” airports, it also charges a third the price in terms of handling fees. You can contact the main FBO on info@londonoxfordairport.com

EGGW/London Luton
Open: H24
London Luton has some pretty strict movement limits, particularly at night. They limit the QC to 0.5 aircraft so don’t count on getting a night slot here.

EGLF/Farnborough
Open: Monday to Friday 07:00 – 22:00 and 08:00 – 20:00 over the weekend.
Farnborough is a dedicated business aviation airport and can be contacted at ops@farnboroughairport.com

EGKB/Biggin Hill
Open: Monday to Friday 06:30 – 23:30 and at the weekends 08:00 – 22:00.
This is a great airport for smaller corporate and charter operations to consider. A dedicated business airport, only 12 miles outside of central London, and you do not require slot. More info

EGMC/Southend
Open: H24
Slightly further outside of London, Southend is a quieter airport with less slot restrictions, but a fairly restricted night capacity based on noise quotas. Passenger flights can only be scheduled between 06:30 – 23:30. More info

Big, noisy planes are a no-no at night

AIP Supplement 036/2020 came into force October 25, 2020. This is the new Noise Restrictions Notice for the EGLL/Heathrow, EGKK/Gatwick and EGSS/Stansted, valid for the winter period.

The first thing to know is the noise classifications have not changed, and the ones to look out for are any aircraft rated 4 or more. 4 is a noise rating 96 – 98.9EPNdB. So any aircraft noisier than 96EPNdB might find they are restricted into certain airports after certain times.

Those times have not changed either – the night quota period is from 2330 to 0600 hours, while the general night period is from 2300 to 0700 hours.

This is worth looking at if you think your aircraft might be in one of the noisier categories. Here’s the important bit:

  1. Any aircraft which has a quota count of 4 may not be scheduled to take off or land during the night quota period;
  2. Any aircraft which has a quota count of 8 or 16 may not take off or land during the night period.

If you have any further knowledge or recent experience to share, please let us know!

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David Mumford

David Mumford

Opsgroup team member, Flight Dispatcher. International flight ops news hound.

2 Comments

  • Chris says:

    And Stansted is really H24 but like the others with the slot restrictions 2300-0600, however not an issue at present of course.
    Diverts are not an issue for H24.

  • Russ says:

    You missed Southend as an option in your article. open 24 hrs and cheaper. EGMC

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