London Gatwick: Qantas' new business traveller alternative to Heathrow

By John Walton, March 4 2013
London Gatwick: Qantas' new business traveller alternative to Heathrow

According to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Australians are booking flights into London's second airport at a rate of knots under the new Qantas-Emirates alliance, which offers direct flights from Dubai to Gatwick and several other UK airports as alternatives to Heathrow.

Calling Gatwick one of Qantas' "best performing destinations outside of London Heathrow" in terms of tickets sold, Joyce's comments will surprise many travellers who remember Gatwick as an airport best avoided.

Not the Gatwick you used to know

But that's the old Gatwick. London's second airport has been coming on in leaps and bounds since it was sold to new owners a few years back.

It now boasts two renovated terminals, new lounges and some great facilities for business travellers.

Emirates uses Gatwick's North Terminal, which has undergone a particularly welcome renovation to add space and brighten up the terminal.

British Airways' new check-in area has freed up space for Emirates nearby, with fast-track checkin and security also on offer.
British Airways' new check-in area has freed up space for Emirates nearby, with fast-track checkin and security also on offer.

The Emirates Lounge in Gatwick is just as impressive as its Heathrow sibling — potentially more so as the Heathrow lounge fills up with Qantas passengers.

Sitting on top of the main London-Brighton railway line to the south of the city, Gatwick's also a convenient way to get into central London – especially if you're heading to the financial districts in the Square Mile and Docklands.

That said, it's more of a trundling Sydney-style commuter train experience rather than a polished airport express dash, although unlike the Heathrow Express you don't need to change trains at Paddington.

The Gatwick downsides? There are still bits of the airport that feel like a miserable 1980s timewarp, the trains are often crowded, and Gatwick's terminals can be a bit of a scrum during low-cost airline peak hours.

Watch out for less comfortable seats on Emirates

Emirates runs three daily Gatwick flights from Dubai using Boeing 777 aircraft: usually the same long-haul 777-300ER planes we see from Australia, but occasionally older 777-300 planes with less comfortable business class.

Whichever 777 is on the flights you're considering, it's not up to the same excellent standard as Emirates' Airbus A380s. For comfort, space and productivity on board, we'd pick the superjumbo every time. 

The seven-across, angled lie-flat seats on even the long-haul version of the 777 are a far cry from the A380.
The seven-across, angled lie-flat seats on even the long-haul version of the 777 are a far cry from the A380.

In economy, it's bad news too: these 777s all use the ultra-squashed 3-4-3 seating layout, with narrow seats and narrow aisles. The A380 seats have over an inch more width at every seat — and in the confines of economy, that's an important inch.

Our advice: unless you're absolutely convinced that Gatwick is the airport for you, the better business class and economy class seating on the A380 are strong reasons to fly via Heathrow.

But if Gatwick sees much-rumoured A380 flights, it'll become a real challenger to Heathrow for business travellers heading to London.

Keep up with the very latest news for business travellers and frequent flyers: follow @AusBT on Twitter! 

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377

Note also that according to this document:

whilst Qantas Plat and Gold members will get lounge access at Gatwick, Qantas Club members will NOT. (Club members will get access to the AA lounge when departing Heathrow)...

Also the document states that lounge access in Dubai for Qantas Club is only provided when flying TO Australia not TO London/Europe

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1251

I think it is saying Qantas Club members can access the Emirates business lounge in Dubai. From Heathrow you can access the AA lounge if travelling to Dubai/Australia. It is clearer in the following:

63.Will Qantas Club members have access to all Emirates lounges?

No. For travel on/after 31 March 2013, Qantas Club members will be welcomed at the Emirates Business lounge in Dubai when their next onward flight that day is with Qantas (QF) or Emirates (EK).

Qantas Club members will have access to Qantas International Business Lounges in Australia and to the American Airlines Admirals Lounge at London Heathrow T3 when their next onward flight is with Qantas (QF) or Emirates (EK) to Dubai or Australia.

Basically, on the way to Europe (except LHR), you will have access to lounges in Australia and Dubai. On the way home, you only have access to Lounge in Dubai.

QC members who used to use lounges in FRA are the losers. And everyone who uses the AA lounge in LHR as American lounges are crappy.

Emirates is wonderful in A380 but that's about it. I have tried to do A380 all the way to Europe but that seems almost impossible. For the price that you pay, you get angled lie flat on 777-300 on "most" flights out of Australia.

They need to upgrade their 777 to fully flat.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2012

Total posts 65

I'm not sure that I would call the rail service to London a 'Sydney-style commuter train experience'.

You do have the option to use local commuter services (heading to numerous destinations in London & around South East England), but 'Gatwick Express' still operates a 30 minute non-stop service to London Victoria every 15 minutes with a dedicated train fleet.

It carries a premium fare over the standard rail service to Gatwick and offers a decent 1st class (unlike the local commuter trains). Admittedly, at peak times, a handful of services are extended to/from Brighton but it still operates primarily as a true airport train.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2012

Total posts 12

You might also find that Gatwick might be upgauged to an A380 sooner than later given that EK will take delivery of 13 whales over the next 12-months... :-)


05 Jun 2012

Total posts 127

There are forms of ground transport other than trains, you know...

National Express coaches offer services from both Heathrow and Gatwick

Furthermore, Gatwick has a huge advantage over Heathrow for people who are going to hire a car (unless heading north/west, in which case Heathrow is better situated).  The main rental companies have an office attached to the South Terminal (easily accessible by monorail from North Terminal) with the cars parked right outside, so you can wheel your luggage directly to the rental station, with only the last section (crossing the road, but still under cover) outside the building, and get straight into your car.  In Heathrow, unless you pay a significant premium for a meet-and-greet service, you have to take a minibus (which never seems to follow the schedule) and travel what seems like miles to the car rental stations.  And most of them don't co-locate, so they all have their own minibuses, so it isn't even as though you can jump on the first one that comes along.  When time comes to return the car, of course, the same thing in reverse.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

15 Sep 2012

Total posts 2

Not everyone heading for the UK is going to London, so if you are heading elsewhere or you want easy connections to Ireland and Scandinavia then you're best routing to Manchester rather than London. The three Emirates flights from Dubai to Manchester will link into the Qantas services, and one of the three flights is an A380 with a rumour that a second flight will be upgraded to A380 later this year.


30 Aug 2013

Total posts 5

Pathetic that Qantas/Emirates can't offer lounge access to Qantas Club members. What kind of partnership is it? Fine for Emirates to welcome me on board but to bar me from the Gatwick Lounge. And as for this article saying that Gatwick is better than ever, I'm afraid I found it same old same old. Sticking to Heathrow and perhaps regrettably shifting to BA. Lift your game Qantas/Emirates and don't annoy your regular high spend customers. 

22 Jun 2013

Total posts 97

The good news is that Emirates will be operating A380 flights out of Gatwick from 30th March onwards

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on London Gatwick: Qantas' new business traveller alternative to Heathrow