I haven’t written a post in the ‘Navigating…’ series for a while but I’ve travelled through Luton Airport a few times recently and thought it might be useful to offer some tips and general info for the many, many others using this airport. I’ll be honest in saying I’m not a fan of this airport. I know they’re undergoing huge construction work (and have been for years…) but I’m not sure they’re getting it right in many aspects of the changes they’ve made.
Options for Drop off / Pick up to help you avoid paying a ridiculous amount
Whilst not particularly convenient, at least there are a few options when it comes to drop off / pick up zones. If you follow signs to the airport terminal and plan to leave or collect someone, beware that what was once a roundabout is now a one-way system that you have to pay for. This is charged at £3 for 10 minutes and then £1 for every minute after that. Yes, you read that right. And the one-way loop is so long and often so busy that despite best efforts, you may well end up going over that 10 minutes and then you’re stuck paying the £1 a minute charge, which is frankly extortionate.
If you’re willing to say goodbye to your loved ones a little further out, then there are also drop-off zones at the Mid-term and Long-term car parks. At Mid-term, it’s free to park for 15 minutes and then any passengers needing to reach the terminal can hop on a shuttle bus (approximately every 12 minutes and it’s a 5 minute bus trip, or you can walk it in 10-15 minutes). At Long-term, it’s free to park for 2 hours and then it’s a 10 minute trip (shuttles are every 15 minutes) to the terminal building.
On my last trip back to the UK, I met my parents at the Mid-term car park but wasn’t advised which bus stop to get off for the drop-off zone… so I sat on the bus and waved to them as I went on past to the next stop! (advice: I should have got off at the first stop once the shuttle entered the car park)
Quickest route through the slowest security
Security has been moved downstairs but it doesn’t feel any bigger (although the airport website says it has ‘almost twice as many lanes’) and it’s very, very slow. If you have speedy boarding with your easyJet flight ticket then that should also get you through security quicker (and I believe there are a couple of other airline options too).
But, for a cheaper way of doing it, you can spend £3 and pre-book to use the priority lane. Trust me, it’s the best £3 you’ll spend at this airport as it saves a lot of stress and waiting time. When you’ve got to go, a long queue isn’t what you want to be faced with
As you walk into the departures lounge, the gates are off to the left. As such, most people instinctively head that way meaning that the first set of toilets you get to are always the busiest. If you don’t fancy a long wait, turn right instead and there is another set of toilets near Starbucks that I’ve always found to have a shorter (or even non-existent) wait time.
Musical chairs in the departures lounge
Luton Airport has the worst departures lounge I’ve been to – and I’ve been to airstrips in Kenya that just have a covered roof over a bit of dust which they proudly call ‘Departures’.
The biggest issue is that for such a busy airport, there is no way near enough seating. I’ve never seen another airport anywhere I’ve visited throughout the world which has so many people sat on the floor and so many others lurking and ready to pounce the moment someone looks like they’re about to vacate one of the limited number of seats. Whilst the airport website highlights ‘a wide range of options for eating and drinking’, many of these are kiosk-style, food-to-go type places (Pret, Wasabi, Starbucks, etc) that also have very little seating. I also appreciate that many people (myself included) don’t feel that you can sit here unless you’ve purchased something from that vendor. Thankfully, Benugo (despite having a relatively small seating area) have decided to publicise that ‘all passengers are welcome to use this area’. I suggest that until airport management decide to provide seating areas that are large enough to accommodate the numbers of people travelling through, you take heed of the invite from Benugo and actually just sit wherever you want to and can find a seat.
The biggest issue for me about Luton Airport is that it’s just not big enough to accommodate the amount of people that fly through here (I even saw a sign outside the newly-redesigned Aspire lounge saying it was full!). It feels so claustrophobic and despite the renovations that have already been completed, I also think it feels very outdated. I hope my tips above help to give you an easier, more comfortable start to your holiday. Let me know if you’ve got any good advice for travelling through London Luton Airport – comment below or get in touch through Twitter or Instagram: @amiilau