London to India Travel - Useful Info
United Kingdom-India has long been one of the most popular air travel sectors across the world. With thriving business and leisure prospects, there is a great travel demand on the popular UK-India sector. As per Foreign and Commonwealth Office some 0.8 million British nationals travel between the United Kingdom and India every year. Most of these travellers prefer to travel between the popular cities of the two countries - London in England and Mumbai and Delhi in India. A host of international airlines offer tickets on many non-stop, direct/hopping and connecting flights linking these popular Indian business and tourist destinations with London.
London Heathrow (IATA: LHR): It is the busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the third busiest airport in the world in terms of overall passenger traffic. The airport is located at a distance of around 15 miles west of central London and is fairly well connected to the rest of the city via several means of transportation including cabs, trains, buses and taxis. The airport features 5 passenger terminals that are thoughtfully designed and ensure modish set of passenger facilities including premium lounges, duty-free shopping outlets, high-end boutiques, speciality restaurants and cafes. The airport’s terminal 5 is dedicated to country’s national airline, British Airways. Due to higher number of international carriers and India based carriers such as Air India and British Airways, London Heathrow is preferred by many for booking direct/indirect flights bound for India.
London Gatwick (IATA: LGW): It is London's second largest international airport and second busiest by total passenger traffic in the United Kingdom after Heathrow. It is also Europe's foremost airport for point-to-point flights. The airport serves more than 34 million passengers who book tickets aboard short and long-haul flights to travel to various worldwide destinations, every year. The airport is located 28 miles (45kms) south of London and features excellent public transport links connecting it to the rest of the city. The airport also features busiest single-runway airport in the world and is quite well known for passenger-friendly facilities including duty free shopping and dining scene. London Gatwick caters to several international airlines that operate scheduled direct/indirect flights bound for India from London.
Due to the ever-increasing travel demand on the London-India air travel sector, a large number of international airlines operate frequent non-stop, direct, hopping and connecting flights linking popular Indian cities to London. Foreign travellers booking flights to connect to the leisure and business destinations in India have the options to book tickets with several popular carriers including Jet Airways,Air India, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Etihad, KLM, Gulf Air, Qatar Airways, Air France, Lufthansa etc. Out of all the options available, Indian carriers - Air India and Jet Airways - make for a good choice as they operate out of India. It is often seen that destination based airlines are able to offer relatively cheaper airfares and higher baggage allowance as compared to their foreign rivals. While Air India has the top two metropolises of India - Delhi and Mumbai - as its hubs, Jet airways uses Brussels apart from Delhi and Mumbai as its hub airports.
Booking Flights from London to India
Travellers can book tickets to travel to India from London either directly with the airline they want to fly with or with the travel agents. Both ways have their own merits and demerits.
The airlines as well as travel agents sell tickets online on their websites or through their call centres and from time to time also promote special offers for travellers.
It is a popular belief that booking direct with the airline works out cheaper. While it may be true at times, cheap fares cannot be guaranteed always when booked directly with the airlines.
Booking directly with the airlines
This involves a careful and time consuming research on part of the traveller. The travellers, in order to pick the most suitable choice, are required to first of all find out the airlines that serve their chosen destination in India. Note that not all airlines operating to India have services to all popular destinations. Air India and Jet Airways operate flights to maximum number of destinations in India from London followed by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Besides, there are other important areas that need a careful consideration while booking flights to India directly with the airlines such as fare comparison to identify the most affordable choice, choice of airlines offering direct or non-stop/connecting flights to the chosen destinations in India, ascertain any change of plane involved at an en route stopover to India, ascertain baggage allowance, departure and arrival terminals at London and chosen Indian airport, as well as ascertain entry requirements such as an Indian visa or a transit visa in case of connecting flights.
Factors Affecting Buying Decision
Travellers make their buying decision in favour of an airline mainly based on factors such as budget, service, onboard facilities, baggage allowance, and frequent flyer program and fly miles. The airlines based out of India and the UK, mainly Air India, Jet Airways, British Airways, remain popular among fliers across all these factors. Besides, Middle East carriers including Emirates, Etihad, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways are also highly preferred by travellers on London-India route.
India Based Airlines
In addition to relatively cheaper fares, booking with India based airlines such as Air India and Jet Airways, travellers also have a wider choice of destination in India to connect with as well as a higher frequency of flights from London as well as other UK airports. Destination based airlines may also have a higher checked-in baggage allowance than their international counterparts operating to India.
Booking with travel agents
A number of travellers, in order to avoid these hassles involved in booking directly with the airlines, prefer to book with travel agents. Booking with a reputed travel agent who is able to do all the research work and acts on the traveller’s behalf not only brings economy of fares, but also peace of mind as these travel agents can offer clear guidance in terms various factors such as direct/connecting flight, visa requirements, change of plane, baggage allowance etc. With India emerging as a popular leisure and business destination for Britons, a number of travel agents specialise in air travel and holidays to India and are preferred more than others in the UK travel market for their unmatched destination knowledge as well as special deals that they are able to bag from popular airlines on the UK-India route.
Besides the ease of booking, the travel agents are often able to offer fares that are cheaper than those booked directly the airlines. This is due to many travel agents acting as consolidators for these airlines who bulk buy tickets from the airlines and even have direct access to airline’s inventory. The negotiated deals that these agents have as a part of their contracts with the airlines allow them to beat the airlines’ published fares available to be sold to general public.
India Specialist Travel Agents
While India flights are offered by countless British travel agents, it is advisable to choose from among those which are India experts and are renowned for selling flights and holidays to India. Besides affordable prices, these may be better aware of the various requirements one needs to fulfill for travel to the country. Besides, as a basic tip, travellers must ensure that the travel agent that they choose is a member of Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and offers fully protected flights and holidays.
While these India specialist travel agents are scattered all across the UK, some regions, particularly in England, that host a high density of expatriates from Indian subcontinent, are home to many of these popular travel agents. These regions include London and Greater London (Harrow, Brent, Ealing, Hounslow, Southall), West Midlands (Birmingham), East Midlands (Leicester), North West (Manchester) just to name a few.
With over half a million Indians alone in London and its surrounding territories, the national capital and its many suburbs are home to myriad of travel agents catering particularly to travellers booking flights to Indian subcontinent. These travel companies include brands operating for decades as well as a number of newly launched online travel agencies.
Online Travel Agencies
Websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Travel Trolley, Tickets to India etc are some online travel agencies that travellers seeking flights to India may consult.
Special Deals from Travel Agents
Just like several reputed airlines offer special fares from time to time, travel agents also roll out regular discount deals. Travellers can keep themselves updated with these special fares of the airlines and travel agents by subscribing to their newsletters or fare alerts through their websites. For special offers on tickets to India fliers can check the websites of Air India, Jet Airways, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad. Cheapflights.co.uk advertises a ‘send me deals’ section on its website where frequent travellers to India can subscribe for their newsletter. Fare comparison website Skyscanner also provides fare alerts which can be subscribed online.
Other Important Tips
ATOL Financial Protection
Booking flights directly with the airline does not offer financial protection that is usually available on air holidays booked with travel companies that hold an ATOL number (Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing) from the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA). More info on ATOL is available at http://www.packpeaceofmind.co.uk.
Fare Comparison Websites
Travellers can also use popular fares comparison websites such as skyscanner, kayak.com or cheapflights.co.uk for comparing the fares offered by different travel agents and airlines, and narrow down their search for the best fares.
Choice of Departure Airport
Choosing London Heathrow as the departure airport offers wider choice of airlines as well as higher frequency of flights for travel to India. The choice further widens if travellers choose to fly from Heathrow to Indian cities of Delhi or Mumbai as their first port of entry into India.