Copenhagen, Frederik's Church

How to survive Luton airport

Now that the summer holiday season is winding down, the post-holiday blues are setting in and are prompting us to book our next trip abroad.

Before you book flights out of Luton airport, think about how great of a deal you’re really getting. Think about the physical toll, the mental trauma and the cost of the extra transport to this particular airport. For me, it’s a few-pound tube ride out to Heathrow compared to £20+ each way for the train to Luton. For our recent trip to Copenhagen, we got some incredibly cheap flights in Ryanair’s Brexit deal and in my ignorance I thought how bad can it be? Quite bad, it turns out.

 

Tip 1

Don’t fly out of Luton Airport.

 

If you really must…

 

Tip 1 (take two)

Leave extra time to get to the airport. No, really, I mean it. Depending on where you are travelling from, you will probably need to catch more than one train. If using the tube to get to Heathrow, they depart every few minutes so if you miss one it’s probably going to be fine. For Luton, we had to catch the Overground (15-minute departure intervals) then transfer to a Thameslink train (even less frequent). The final train doesn’t even drop you in the terminal; Prepare to wait for a shuttle bus to fill up – which means for another few trains to arrive at the station – before it departs for the airport.

 

Tip 2

Do not buy food before security. Don’t even think about it. We had quite an early morning (albeit reasonable for Ryanair standards where cheap flights normally mean a 6am takeoff) so didn’t have breakfast at home. Thanks to previously missed flights and resultant over-compensation with our schedule we had an hour to kill so decided to buy food at the airport. Having not been to Luton before, we weren’t sure whether the pre-security options were our last chance before being stuck in the departure gate. Justin opted for a £4 breakfast roll from Starbucks (in this context it was truly the best option) before opening it and throwing it in the nearest bin. After that traumatic experience we decided we’d rather go hungry. Luckily, after security, there were a few more options including a Pret where we both bought sandwiches.

 

Tip 3

Don’t touch anything. I felt like I needed a shower after 10 minutes in the airport. Think of Luton Airport as the flight version of commuting – there is nothing romantic or elegant about your flight when it starts at this airport!

 

Tip 4

Put your toiletries in a zip-lock bag. At Heathrow, there is normally a lovely attendant handing out free bags before you head through security. At Luton the bags are being sold in gumball-style machines at 2 for a pound. Bargain? Not when I can buy a whole pack of them from Tesco for less than that. More annoyingly, who is carrying a pound on them and in the rush and bustle has time to fiddle around trying to buy them? I packed my main toiletries in my checked baggage but was carrying a tiny, lone, travel moisturiser to combat the dry plane environment. This had to be thrown out or stored in a plastic bag by itself. My own fault, perhaps, but be prepared!

 

Tip 5

Get to the gate early. Or late. I can’t decide which would be better. We arrived at the gate at the time recommended on our tickets. There were already what seemed like hundreds of people in a fat snaking line which led around a corner and up to what we presumed was our gate. We waited at the back of the queue, hoping the crowd would move enough for us to see what was going on.  When it didn’t move, we gave up and dodged our way through to the front, only to see that all of the people were lining up for our gate. This little adventure meant we’d forfeited our original position in line so we trudged to the back and waited at least fifteen minutes before the line even started moving. It was another long while before we actually boarded. Luckily, we were only in our seats for for a few minutes before the plane was locked up and got moving; in hindsight this was the better option, definitely preferable over waiting in the uncomfortable plane for longer than necessary.

 

Tip 6

Get excited! You’re probably travelling to a fantastic location in Europe. Try to drown out the crying babies and frustrated staff while you dream about the holiday you’re about to embark on.

 

Bonus tip

One positive thing about our experience when coming back into Luton was that at passport control the line for non-EU residents was extremely short. For once, being foreign was the preferable option! At Heathrow a large proportion of people are presumably from across the world, meaning that the non-EU passport line is painfully large. But I live here, it’s not fair, I always think. If you’re a dual-passport holder and coming through Luton, use your non-EU one to get out of there as quickly as possible.

 

The whole experience, while I have vowed never to visit Luton again, was very much worth it to spend a few days and nights in beautiful Copenhagen.

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