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The Cheapest UK Airports

There are around forty commercial airports in the UK which means that most people have a choice as to which one they use.

There are around forty or so commercial airports operating in the UK which means that most people have a choice as to which one they use when they travel. We decided to have a look at which of the biggest ones were the cheapest and conducted a bit of research using Skyscanner.net to discover if your departure airport is important when it comes to price. Two of the key factors are: the UK passenger service charge which is a tax which we all pay to cover what the airports charge the airlines for us using their facilities. Also airlines are charged to land at airports and the more in demand the airport (eg. Heathrow), the more expensive the landing slots tend to be.

We picked four different European cities – Alicante, Geneva, Frankfurt and Paris – representative flights for the holiday maker, the business traveller or the avid sightseer. All flights (where possible) are on the same day in March 2008 and the results below show what we found:

Departure airport Paris Alicante Frankfurt Geneva Total
Gatwick (LGW) N/A 34.99 24.61 49.99 109.59
Stansted (STN) N/A 39.99 22.37 49.99 112.35
Luton (LTN) 21.13 41.48 22.99 59.99 145.59
Bristol (BRS) 20.99 49.99 35.76 46.06 152.80
Edinburgh (EDI) 22.99 64.99 43.98 22.95 154.91
Prestwick (PIK) 23.79 43.71* 46.70 46.72* 160.92
Newcastle (NCL) 25.31 67.49 40.90* 35.99 169.69
East Midlands (EMA) 29.94 49.99 58.98 34.94 173.85
Birmingham (BHX) 42.65 59.99 45.93* 31.09 179.66
Glasgow (GLA) 30.88 65.88 34.99 51.34 183.09
Manchester (MAN) 30.99 64.07 90.70 29.94 215.70
Heathrow (LHR) 44.70 70.98 50.17 51.53 217.38
Belfast (BFS) 49.99 61.54 46.37 59.99 217.89
Southampton (SOU) 36.30 75.63 57.60 49.99 219.52
Liverpool (LPL) 37.85 72.24 49.99 61.17 221.35
Leeds (LBA) 28.99 58.00 67.47* 78.99 233.45
Inverness (INV) 40.39* 78.78* 35.98* 78.80 233.95
Aberdeen (ABZ) 44.24* 64.99 89.17* 57.53* 255.93
Cardiff (CWL) 23.30 77.99 116.30* 54.94 272.53
Exeter (EXT) 36.21 90.49* 129.21* 71.73 327.64

Key
_Results sorted by cheapest total cost, top three offering direct flights to all destinations highlighted in yellow
Flights highlighted in green = cheapest flights on this route

  • = indirect flight_
    All figures shown in GBP, correct as at January 2008

Notes about the results

Gatwick and Stansted can be disregarded from the list since it was not possible to fly to all the routes from those airports – incidentally, an indirect flight to Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport from either of these two would have sent them rocketing to the bottom of the table.

Some of the airports were not able to offer direct flights to the destinations which we chose, but nevertheless came up with very competitive prices using Skyscanner’s multi-hop search option which you can activate automatically by de-selecting the “Direct only” check box on the homepage.

London City was not included due to its limited choice of destination.

Conclusions

One criterion for judging an airport’s usefulness for the traveller is by looking at how far it is away from the city it purports to serve. From the cheapest three airports, according to our figures, Luton Airport came out favourably as we might have predicted but one of the drawbacks to this airport is its location – unless you live in Luton of course. Billed rather ambitiously, as London Luton, it’s really not very close to London at all (unless you call 50km close) and it takes a train journey from a north London railway station and then a shuttle bus to get there. The train fare also costs around £20 for a return ticket from Kings Cross, so once the extra travelling cost is added to the equation, it seems the people of the Bristol and Edinburgh regions have a much better deal.

Both Bristol and Edinburgh airports are within 25-30 mins bus rides away from their respective city centres. The buses are reliable, cheap (Edinburgh prices are £5 rtn), take you to right outside the airport and operate virtually all the time. Another thing to consider when viewing value for money is how much further north Edinburgh is than Bristol. It is approximately 460km as the crow flies from Bristol to Paris and about 870km from Edinburgh. For virtually the same price, you are travelling an extra 400 km so in terms of value for money, Edinburgh wins hands down.

Clearly, our results are not much use to you if you happen to live miles away from the cheapest airports, but for those of you that are lucky enough to be able to choose which airport you fly from, perhaps our findings will help you consider your various options.

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