The airspace over and around the City of London is the busiest in the world, with six commercial airports serving as a point of departure and arrival for more than 100 million annual travelers.

Wheelchair assistance services at London airports.

Readers often ask, “which is the most accessible airport in London?” As I have said before, the accessible air travel experience is based on a lot of factors. The physical accessibility of the London-area airports is good, but there is always the potential for breakdown in wheelchair assistance services, baggage handling and airline customer service. Even with all of these potential points of failure, I have had generally positive experiences in the London airports I have used and will share that knowledge with you here.

The two primary airports for international traffic in London are Heathrow and Gatwick. I will dive deepest into those two, then provide basic information on wheelchair accessibility and assistance services at the remaining four.

London Heathrow Airport (LHR)

Having served more than 75 million passengers in 2016 alone, London’s Heathrow Airport is the busiest in Europe and 7th busiest in the world. The airport has four terminals, numbered 2, 3, 4 and 5. The terminals operate independently of one another, but wheelchair accessible shuttle buses are provided for connecting passengers.

British Airways planes at Heathrow Terminal 5.

I have compiled a list of airlines and their associated terminals for you here. Please check with your airline for the most up-to-date information on terminal and gate assignments.

  • Terminal 2 — Aegean Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, Eurowings, EVA Air, Flybe, Germanwings, Icelandair, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, TAP Air Portugal, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines
  • Terminal 3 — American Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Cobalt Air, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Finnair, Garuda Indonesia, Iran Air, Japan Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, SriLankan Airlines, TAM, Virgin Atlantic, Vueling
  • Terminal 4 — Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air Algerie, Air Astana, Air France, Air Malta, Air Mauritius, Air Serbia, Alitalia, Arik Air, Azerbaijan Airlines, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Bulgaria Air, China Eastern, China Southern, El Al, Etihad Airways, Gulf Air, Jet Airways, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Kuwait Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Brunei Airlines, Saudia, Tarom, Tunisair, Turkmenistan Airlines, Uzbekistan Airways, Vietnam Airlines
  • Terminal 5 — British Airways, Iberia, Iberia Express

Disability assistance services should be requested prior to travel and through your airline. Consult this list of wheelchair assistance contacts at major airlines. If you are traveling with a personal wheelchair, it is possible to gate-check the device, whether it is manual or powered.

Airport bathrooms are outfitted with wheelchair accessible stalls, with most having a private bathroom designed for use by wheelchair users and their attendants. Heathrow terminals 2, 4 and 5 have a Changing Places bathroom facility with a changing table. I do not know if terminal 3 has such a facility (if you can confirm, please share in the comments).

If you are making a connection that requires a change of terminals, be aware that you will be required to go through a security screening at the terminal you are transferring to.

More information on accessibility and disability assistance is available at the Heathrow Airport website.

Accessible transportation to/from Heathrow Airport

Once you have made your way through passport control, baggage claim and customs, you’ll surely want to get on your way quickly. You’ll find wheelchair accessible black cabs in the taxi ranks at each terminal, but the path to public transit will vary based on your arrival terminal.

If you’ve arrived at terminal 2 or 3, congratulations! Terminals 2 and 3 are connected via an underground tunnel to the London Underground Jubilee line, Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect (soon to be replaced by the brand-new Elizabeth Line) and the Heathrow Central Bus Terminal.

If you’ve arrived at Terminal 4, you can access Heathrow Connect or the Jubilee Line directly at that terminal’s station, or you may take the free transfer train to the station at terminals 2 and 3 to access the Heathrow Express or city bus services.

If you’ve arrived at Terminal 5, the Heathrow Express and Jubilee Line also service a station there. If you need to get to Heathrow Central station at terminals 2 and 3, you can transfer between T5 and T2&3 for free on the Heathrow Express, which departs every 15 minutes.

London Gatwick Airport (LGW)

Gatwick is the second busiest airport in the United Kingdom, having served more than 45 million passengers in 2017. At about 30 miles south of Central London, it is a bit farther afield than Heathrow, but it is still a modern and accessible airport that is welcoming to wheelchair travelers.

Exterior view of London Gatwick airport terminal.

Gatwick consists of a North and South terminal, which are connected by a landside automated people mover. I have compiled a list of airlines and their associated terminals for you here. Please check with your airline for the most up-to-date information on terminal and gate assignments.

  • North Terminal — Aeroflot, Cobalt Air, EasyJet, Emirates, Georgian Airways, Icelandair, Meridiana Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, RwandAir, Tianjin Airlines, TUI, Virgin Atlantic, WestJet
  • South Terminal — Aegean Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air Arabia Maroc, Air Baltic, Air Europa, Air Malta, Air Transat, Aurigny, Austrian, Belavia Belarussian, BH Air, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Enter Air, Flybe, Germania, Iraqi Airways, Med-View Airline, Montenegro Airlines, Norwegian, Pegasus Airlines, Ryanair, SATA International, Small Planet Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines, TAP Air Portugal, Thomas Cook Airlines, Titan Airways, Travel Services, Tunisair, Turkish Airlines, Vueling, Wizz Air, WOW Air

Disability assistance services should be requested prior to travel and through your airline. See this list of who to contact for disability assistance at major airlines. If you are traveling with a manual or power wheelchair, it is possible to gate-check the device.

For more information, visit the Gatwick Airport website at www.gatwickairport.com.

Accessible transportation to/from Gatwick Airport

Accessible taxis are available at Gatwick Airport, but the cost of a cab ride to Central London is very expensive. As such, most travelers use one of the rail services to get from the airport to the city.

Wheelchair accessible Gatwick Express train.

There are several trains with regularly scheduled departures from the station at Gatwick Airport. The fastest is the Gatwick Express, with its nonstop service to Victoria Station in just 30 minutes. National Rail and ThamesLink also travel to Victoria on journeys of about an hour. All are wheelchair accessible, with a ramp provided to allow step-free boarding of the trains.

London City Airport (LCY)

Located in East London near the Royal Docks and Canary Wharf, London City Airport is the smallest commercial airport in the metropolitan area. The airport, which served just over 4.5 million passengers in 2016, is used primarily by European business travelers.

London City has a short runway and requires a steep approach, so it isn’t able to accommodate the wide-body jets that are used on long distance intercontinental routes. There is one transatlantic flight to New York City operated British Airways using a specially-configured Airbus A318. Check out this video of the landing from British Airways:

The British Airways LCY-JFK service is certainly unique, and is a flight I hope to one day experience for myself. The majority of travelers using the London City Airport are on domestic flights within the UK, or flights to/from international destinations in Western Europe.

A single terminal building is used, and no gates have jet bridges. Step-free boarding of the aircraft is possible, however, as the airport has invested in AviRamps.

The following destinations are served (some seasonally, and sorted by airline):

  • Alitalia — Milan-Linate, Rome-Fiumicino
  • British Airways — Amsterdam, Berlin-Tegel, Bergerac, Billund, Chamberay, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Faro, Florence, Frankfurt, Geneva, Glasgow, Granada, Ibisa, Isle of Man, Malaga, Manchester, Menorca, Milan-Linate, Mykonos, New York-JFK, Nice, Paris-Orly, Palma de Mallorca, Prague, Quimper, Reykjavik-Keflavik, Rotterdam, Santorini, Skiathos, Venice, Zurich
  • CityJet — Dublin, Florence
  • Flybe — Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Belfast-City, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Exeter, Jersey, Rennes
  • KLM — Amsterdam
  • Lufthansa — Frankfurt
  • Luxair — Luxembourg
  • SkyWork Airlines — Bern
  • Swiss International Air Lines —Geneva, Sion, Zurich
  • TAP Air Portugal — Lisbon, Porto
  • VLM Airlines — Antwerp

Disability assistance services should be requested prior to travel and through your airline. See this list of who to contact for disability assistance at major airlines. If you are traveling with a manual or power wheelchair, it is possible to gate-check the device.

For more information, visit the London City Airport website at www.londoncityairport.com.

Accessible transportation to/from London City Airport

Wheelchair accessible black cabs are available directly outside the terminal in the taxi ranks. Two public transit modes serve the airport directly: the DLR train and city bus.

By riding the fully accessible DLR, you can make a connection to the tube’s Jubilee Line at the Canning Town station, which is only a DLR ride of 7 minutes away. The airport is served by city bus routes 473 and 474.

London Stansted Airport (STN)

London Stansted Airport is located in Essex, about 30 miles northeast of Central London. The airport is a focus city for several budget airlines, including easyJet, Ryanair and Thomas Cook Airlines. In 2016, the airport served just over 24 million passengers.

Aerial view of London airport with terminal buildings and runways.

The airport has a single terminal, but the gates themselves are housed in satellite buildings. Gates 1 through 19 are in Satellite 1 and gates 20 through 39 are in Satellite 2. These are accessed via an automated people mover. Gates 81-88 are also located in Satellite 2, but are accessible via a walkway from the main terminal. Satellite 3 houses gates 40-59 and the fourth satellite – the APV building, is actually a transit hub for buses that transport passengers to remote stands. At the remote stand, and at gates without jet bridges, ramps or high lower/AmbuLift vehicles are used to board passengers with reduced mobility.

The following airlines operate at Stansted Airport:

Air Corsica, Air Moldova, Albawings, Arkia, AtlasGlobal, Aurigny, Austrian Airlines, BH Air, BMI Regional, British Airways, Cobalt Air, easyJet, Emirates, Eurowings, Flybe, Jet2.com, Loganair, Pegasus Airlines, Primera Air, Ryanair, Thomas Cook Airlines, Titan Airways, TUI Airways, Widerøe, WOW Air

For more information on the airport and special assistance services, visit www.stanstedairport.com.

London Luton Airport (LTN)

Luton Airport is located 29 miles north of Central London and served more than 14 million passengers in 2016. The airport consists of a single terminal building.

The following airlines operate scheduled passenger and charter service at Luton Airport:

Blue Air, easyJet, El Al, Iberia Regional, Ryanair, Sun Express, TAROM, Thomas Cook Airlines, Titan Airways, TUI Airways, Vueling, Wizz Air

For more information, visit the airport’s official website at www.london-luton.co.uk.

London Southend Airport (SEN)

London Southend Airport is the smallest airport in the London-area, and is located about 42 miles from Central London. In 2016, the airport served fewer than 1.1 million passengers.

The list of operating carriers is small, consisting of Air Malta, easyJet, Flybe, IGavion and Volotea, with many routes served only on a seasonal basis.

For more information, visit the Southend Airport website at www.southendairport.com.