OPINION - Fat Tony: Which London airport is best? There's only one standout for me...

London City Airport (PA Archive)
London City Airport (PA Archive)

I’m not being funny but… I’m over Heathrow airport? How many times in the past few years have you been getting excited about finally going on holiday, and then you turn up at Heathrow or Gatwick and are faced with insane security queues? How many times have you arrived back from a work trip or city break only to have to deal with a customs line a thousand people deep? It appears to always be one thing or another.

London’s still a leading European travel hub but I’m not surprised cities like Madrid and Paris have been so many travellers’ hub of choice these days. You never know if border control staff are going to be on strike one week, or refuellers will be striking the next.

Especially in this country, the aviation industry hasn’t quite fully recovered from the shock of the pandemic. A lot of corporations found it the perfect opportunity to lay off staff, restructure their contracts and rehire cheap — and that’s bringing a whole other set of issues. They find it hard to hire and fill positions that are vital in keeping the system going.

When the company is more focused on paying out shareholder dividends, instead of investing in the customer experience such as renovations and good staff levels, it’s just going to result in s**t service

Who bears the brunt of this most? The customer. Of course I would always want people to be paid adequately, that’s not what I’m talking about. When the company is more focused on paying out shareholder dividends, instead of investing in the customer experience such as renovations and good staff levels, it’s just going to result in s**t service.

When talking about Terminal 3, the boss of one of the world’s leading airlines said: “It looks like a utilitarian structure, post-Second World War. It is just not good enough.” When you hear that Heathrow just earned bumper profits last quarter, it does make you wonder.

We all get the concepts of corporate greed and capitalism, but so many companies seem to be taking the piss out of the consumer these days. Higher prices than ever, worse experiences ever. I don’t get it.

The funny thing is, even though they may be a bitch to get to, Luton and Stansted offer consistent levels of service. We really need to stop using Heathrow and Gatwick until they get their act together.

Nothing though, and I mean nothing, beats City Airport. I was hesitant to even say it on such a public platform. I know it’s like London’s worst-kept secret, but it does still feel like it’s mostly used by seasoned travellers. The convenience doesn’t compare to any other airport in London. Flying to European destinations only, London City is the smoothest experience imaginable. Due to its size and originally being an airport focused on business travel, you can check in and get through security in 10 to 15 minutes.

Boarding happens much quicker which means you can technically turn up an hour before you’re due to take off. You could even go through security without having to remove liquids and electronics. Customs on arrival is so smooth. Considering the amount of passengers that come through each day, I’d say the airport consistently has more E-gates working than Terminal 5 on a good day. How is that possible?! You don’t have that ridiculous trek that you have at say Heathrow or Gatwick that can sometimes span a train journey and 20-minute walk depending where your gate is.

I can’t speak any more highly of it and as someone that has to travel quite a bit for work, that ease is a game-changer. It allows me to arrive wherever I’m heading well rested and ready to get on with my work. City Airport is incredible.

Powerful message in the depths of the ocean

Last week I had the pleasure of previewing Chris Levine’s new immersive artwork installation 7.83 Hertz on Shepherd Street. It opens to the public this week but you need to book an appointment.

I’ve always been a fan of his work and this installation proves why. Chris collaborated with environmental project The Convex Seascape Survey to create this, based on a five-year research initiative.

As you enter the dark room you see only two vertical blue lights. With the help of the latest laser and projection technology, you begin to see images but only as your eyes move. It’s almost as if you’re in the depths of the ocean. There’s a powerful message in there about the importance of our underwater habitats. Go check this out if you can. See you next Wednesday.

Track of the Week: Pick Up The Phone (ft Nate Dogg) — PAWSA

Fat Tony is a DJ and best-selling author