Last Dash to London! Essential Booking Tips for the Olympic-Bound
Last Saturday, the Olympic Torch relay set off in Great Britain and began a 70-day journey through the United Kingdom that will end on July 27 at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. The countdown has begun.
Set on making it across the pond this summer? It’s not too late—but you must act now! To inspire you procrastinators to begin booking, we present our last-minute get-to-London guide.
The good news: flights to the city’s hub airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, London City) are still available. Right now, a search of round-trip fares from major U.S. cities range from $1,100 to $1,500. Departing from Chicago, you’ll fork over about $1,200 for a round-trip economy ticket on Virgin Atlantic Airways (a seat in the carrier’s newly revamped Upper Class cabin will cost you $2,800).
These fares are steep—and getting steeper—but they aren’t higher than this time last year. “I don’t think airlines are price gauging,” says George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com, a site that monitors ticket prices. “It’s still the summer season and we’re seeing reasonable fares for this time of year.”
But as London’s hub airports reach capacity, it’s time to start thinking outside the box. How about heading to Paris – and then hopping on Eurostar (still showing availability through the Games) to London St Pancras? Or, if you like getting behind the wheel, rent a car in Edinburgh and take a scenic road trip to England’s capital.
No matter how you much you micromanage, you’ll still be shelling out big bucks for your Olympic pilgrimage. In that case, why not get creative and, say, charter your own plane to London?
Air Partner, one of the world’s leading aircraft charter companies, offers on-demand private and commercial jets that will take you anywhere a plane can land. In anticipation for London 2012, Air Partner’s special Ops24 division has spent months gathering intelligence and networking with nearly every UK airport to prepare for transit before and during the Games.
“Our people have visited all of the outlying airports to find out what sort of measures are being taken,” says Philip Matthews, president of Air Partner. “With an event like this, it’s well worth planning and thinking ahead because there will be many restrictions in place.”
Heathrow, which has dealt with a host of well-publicized issues (ranging from major delays to chronic lines), will no longer accommodate additional private aircrafts. So, Air Partner has shifted its focus to smaller municipal airports, such as Luton, Stansted, and Southend, among others, where there is expected to be much less congestion.
So how much will a private jaunt to London set you back? That depends. Departing from the East Coast, a round-trip journey on a heavy jet seating 18 passengers costs $110,000—around $6,100 per person.
But let’s say you round up 69 like-minded friends (yes, Facebook friends count), you can charter a 70-seat commercial jet for a fraction of that price—starting at $1,600 per seat. Another bonus? You’ll be flying like royalty. Literally. Air Partner is the world's only aviation company to hold a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II.
Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, automobile, or royal carrier, don’t waste any time and book now! London's calling.
Briana Fasone is a digital editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter @brifasone.