- Heathrow Express to offer discounted fares on a trial basis in November
- Service is the quickest way to Britain’s main airport – but prices are high
- Cheaper options exist to the Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted ‘Express’ links
You’re off off on your travels and you want to get to the airport quickly and with no hassle.
If you’re flying from Heathrow, you might choose the Heathrow Express, which whizzes you through the West London suburbs.
But as you look forward to your flight, I wonder if you stop to think that you’re taking, on a cost-per-minute basis, the UK’s most expensive train journey?
Worth the money: The Heathrow Express is the quickest way to Heathrow – but the price can be off-putting
Travelling on the service from London Paddington to Heathrow’s terminals 1-3 takes 15 minutes, and the standard single fare is an eye-watering £21 if you buy your ticket before you board.
So as you speed along, you’re spending £1.40 a minute.
Pay for your ticket on the train and the fare is even steeper, at £26 – or £1.73 a minute.
Given the sky-high prices, it’s hardly surprising that leisure passengers make up only 30 per cent of Heathrow Express users.
Rather belatedly, the company is trying to do something about this state of affairs by trialling a reduced-price fare.
For tickets purchased between now and November 30, the cost of a single journey has been cut by 25 per cent to £15, and a return to £29 (down from £34).
To get the discounted fare, you need to book at least seven days ahead online (www.heathrowexpress.com) using the promotional code OFFER15 (500 tickets are available each day).
Though the Heathrow Express has offered deals for some time for couples and families, this is the first time it has lowered its prices for a person travelling on their own.
Which is good news, particularly if the advance-purchase fare continues to be available after November.
This way for Gatwick: There are cheaper – although not necessarily faster – alternatives to the Gatwick Express
But without wishing to pour cold water on the deal, there are still much cheaper, albeit slower, public transport options to get to Heathrow from London.
Heathrow Connect (www.heathrowconnect.com) runs a stopping service between Paddington Station and Heathrow, taking 32 minutes to terminals 1-3.
The return fare is £19.80 – £9.20 cheaper than the Heathrow Express advance-purchase return.
Note that the Connect service is less convenient for terminals 4 and 5, as you need to change trains at the terminals 1-3 stop.
There is also the Piccadilly Line on the Underground: central London to Heathrow takes around 45-60 minutes, but costs just £6.10 for return journeys using an Oyster card, or £11.40 return paying with cash.
For journeys to other airports, it also pays to investigate the various options. For example, from London to Gatwick, the Gatwick Express (www.gatwickexpress.com) is the obvious choice.
Its Victoria-Gatwick service takes 30 minutes and costs £31.05 return booked online.
But with Thameslink (www.thameslinkrailway.com), you can travel from London Bridge to Gatwick in 29 minutes on an anytime return ticket costing from £19.
Much cheaper still is easyBus (www.easybus.co.uk), non-stop from Waterloo or Earls Court to Gatwick, taking from 65 minutes.
Think ahead: You can save money on the Stansted Express if you are prepared to book your ticket in advance
The cost is from just £4 return if you book well ahead, and the service is available to all airline passengers, not just those flying easyJet.
For Stansted, it really pays to book ahead.
The standard fare on the Stansted Express (www.stanstedexpress.com) is £33.20 return from Liverpool Street, compared with £16 return if you book online at least 30 days in advance.
But easyBus can get you there and back for £4.
You also need to be choosy if you are travelling cross-country to airports. Go by train and you can be hit with cripplingly high fares for peak-time journeys.
Also, fixing the time of the return trip from the airport can be a headache, as you don’t know whether your flight will be delayed or how long it will take to pick up your bags.
Taking a coach can be well worth considering instead.
National Express (www.nationalexpress.com) offers affordable fares to main airports from many UK cities.
Over the summer it introduced a ‘Flexible Add On’ option which, for £5 extra each way, allows you to get on any available coach 12 hours either side of your timed departure.
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online