Eager to explore a bit more of Central London in December, a friend suggested I make a quick diversion to check out the Emirates Air Line and the associated Emirates Aviation Experience. This unique attraction is the result of a partnership between Transport for London (TFL) and the world's top airline for 2016, Emirates.
The Emirates Air line is a cable car that crosses the River Thames, connecting the Royal Docklands with the Greenwich Peninsula. Service began in June 2012, and it has transported more than 1.5 million riders per year.
The 0.62-mil gondola ride is quick - between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the time of day. Riders take off from a station at the Royal Victoria Dock, arriving to Greenwich Peninsula - a short walk from the stunning O2 Arena.
Wheelchair Accessible Cable Car
Boarding the gondolas is easy, even in a large power wheelchair. Station staff will fold-up one or both of the seats inside the car to make room for you, and they can slow (or stop) the gondola's movement to ensure a safe boarding process.
Once inside, you'll be be off on your journey across the Thames, soaring up to a height of 300 feet. A video will play on an overhead screen, describing the development of the Emirates Air Line, while providing interesting information about the local area below.
I took a nighttime "flight" across the Thames, which limited my picture-taking opportunities. I would suggest that you ride the cable car in the morning after the sun rises, or in the evening before sunset. These will provide the most exquisite views of the river and the surrounding area.
Emirates Aviation Experience
While you can board the cable car at either end, I recommend a round-trip journey originating from the Royal Docklands station. On arrival to the Greenwich Peninsula station, you'll be able to alight and explore a small museum, the Emirates Aviation Experience.
As an aviation geek, I was really excited to learn about an airline I have yet to fly. While the displays area is small, there are some neat pieces on display I thought the mock forward section of the Airbus A380 jumbo jet was cool, as it spanned both levels of the building.
The ground floor featured a series of displays introducing visitors to the Emirates flying experience:
Two that I found uniquely interesting were the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 jet engine and the economy class configuration. Wheelchair users may actually find some real value in testing out the economy class seat. Will you be able to easily get in and out of it? Is it comfortable? Could you survive in this seat on an ultra long-haul flight?
I also thought it was cool that the first row of economy class seats is designed like a real seat of bulkhead seats. I never sit in a bulkhead row, as the armrests are typically immovable, and there is no under-seat storage (as no row exists ahead of you!).
On the second floor, in the cockpit of the mock A380, I had an opportunity for a photo op. This is probably the closest I'll ever get to a real airplane flight deck, but I'll keep dreaming anyway!
Four fixed flight simulators are also housed on the second floor, but you'll have to pay extra to try them out. Two simulate the flight experience on a Boeing 777, with the other two simulating the Airbus A380. The cost for 30 minutes of simulator time is 60. A full hour of time can be reserved for 90. You'll need to reserve your time 24 hours in advance at www.aviation-experience.com.
Tickets & Cost
Tickets to ride the Emirates Air Line and to visit the Aviation Experience are available for purchase at ticket windows at both stations and at electronic ticket vending machines. Oyster cardholders can purchase only one-way journeys by tapping their card at the fare gate.
The cost rundown is as follows:
One-way ride (Adult, Cash/Credit) -- £4.50
One-way ride (Child, Cash/Credit) -- £2.30
One-way ride (Adult, Oyster card) -- £3.50
One-way ride (Child, Oyster card) -- £1.70
Round-trip journey (Adult, Cash/Credit) -- £9.00
Round-trip journey (Child, Cash/Credit) -- £4.60
Round-trip journey + Discovery Experience (Adult) -- £10.70
Round-trip journey + Discovery Experience (Child) -- £6.20
The discovery experience ticket includes a round-trip ride on the cable car, a souvenir guide and access to the Emirates Aviation Experience museum.
Location & Transportation
The easiest connections to public transportation are on the Royal Docklands side of the River Thames. The wheelchair accessible Royal Victoria DLR station is less than 5 minutes walk or roll from the cable car station. This will connect you with the fully accessible DLR light rail network, with an accessible connection also possible to the London Tube's Jubilee line, at Canning Town station.
The Emirates Air Line cable car and Emirates Aviation Experience are together a fantastic way to spend an hour of your time in London. Both attractions are fully accessible to wheelchair users and are available at an affordable price. The cost of £10 for 10-20 minutes in a cable car above the Thames and the opportunity to take great photographs make this an experience all will enjoy.
If you've had the opportunity to ride London's cable car, share some of your photographs and tips in the comments below!