As thoughts turn to planning for Christmas, here’s our guide to travelling to and from London’s airports over the Christmas and New Year period for 2019
This is based on known information at the time of publication, which may be subject to change at short notice.
For the benefit of visitors to London, Christmas Day is the biggest annual public holiday in the UK.
Public transport in the UK on Christmas Day is extremely limited. Taxis and coaches will be your only option.
Tube, suburban and long-distance rail services also close down much earlier on Christmas Eve – most by around 20:00. Retail outlets at stations will close even earlier.
Most London Underground / Tube lines in London operate on Boxing Day, as will the Docklands Light Railway. For the first time this year, some London Overground services will also operate on Boxing Day. Suburban and long distance rail services do not operate on Boxing Day.
The Christmas and New Year period is also used for extensive engineering work on the UK’s rail network. Engineering work can overrun and encounter unforeseen problems, so there is risk of additional closures at short notice. The latest and most accurate rail timetable information can be found on National Rail Enquiries.
The big unknown over the Christmas period is of course UK weather. London airports have markedly improved their winter weather resilience planning in recent years. However, due to capacity issues, it is inevitable that any severe weather will cause delays and cancellations.
Thameslink services between Gatwick and London stations will operate throughout Christmas and New Year, apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
However, revised timetables for all rail operators will operate on some days.
There will be significant disruption to overland rail services to London Heathrow over Christmas.
Due to engineering work closing lines between London Paddington and Slough, there will be significant to disruption to rail services between Paddington and Heathrow. No train services will run at all into and out of London Paddington from Tuesday 24 December 2019 to Friday 27 December 2019.
The Heathrow Express non-stop service from London Paddington to Heathrow Terminal 5 will not run from Tuesday 24 December 2019 to Friday 27 December 2019.
Trains will run at 30 minute intervals from Saturday 28 December 2019 Monday 30 December 2019. Trains will leave London Paddington at 25 and 55 minutes past the hour and London Heathrow from 12 and 42 minutes past the hour. Trains will also run every 30 minutes at these times before 14:00 on Tuesday 31 December 2019.
TfL Rail’s stopping service (formerly Heathrow Connect) will not run from London Paddington to Heathrow Terminal 4 from Tuesday 24 December 2019 to Friday 27 December 2019. Services will be reduced from Saturday 28 December 2019 until 13:00 on Tuesday 31 December 2019.
As is standard practice, there are no Piccadilly Line services to Heathrow on Christmas Day due to the closure of the Tube. It resumes on Boxing Day.
London City Airport
No flights operate from London City on Christmas Day.
As is standard practice, the Docklands Light Railway to London City airport does not operate on Christmas Day. It resumes on Boxing Day.
Flying Before Christmas
In terms of general advice on Christmas gifts, crackers and party poppers:
– It is advised to take Christmas gifts through security unwrapped as security staff may need to inspect them.
– Rules on Christmas crackers vary by airline, but should be accepted as checked luggage provided they are commercially manufactured.
– Party poppers are generally not allowed as either checked or carry on luggage.
Flying On Christmas Day
Most long-haul flights operate as normal from Gatwick and Heathrow on Christmas Day. However, short-haul schedules are significantly reduced.
From Heathrow, there are typically just a small number of short-haul flights to key destinations such as Geneva and Paris Charles de Gaulle. Certainly, if you are flying on BA or Virgin Atlantic from London shortly before, or on, Christmas Day you can expect to receive a traditional Christmas Dinner from crews keen to make the most of it.
Suburban and long distance rail services
Engineering work at London Paddington will close all lines from Tuesday 24 December 2019 to Friday 27 December 2019. There will also be significantly reduced capacity from Saturday 28 December 2019 to Tuesday 31 December 2019.
Engineering work between Bedford and Kettering will result in no direct services on East Midlands Railway from London St Pancras from Thursday 27 December 2019 to Wednesday 1 January 2020.
South Western Railway services to and from London Waterloo will also be disrupted throughout December due to industrial action.
New Year’s Eve
The Tube runs all night on New Year’s Eve. There are extensive road closures across Central London from the early evening on New Year’s Eve. The fireworks on the South Bank is a ticketed event and frankly best watched on television.