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How did I not know that Gatwick surcharges are lower than those at Heathrow?!

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I like to think that I’m fairly up to speed with a lot of the more important information surrounding the topics about which I write, and I like to think that I’m (mostly) completely on top of anything that relates to the cities that I visit frequently, the airlines with whom I fly a lot, and the hotels that I stay at more than once or twice a year. Apparently, that’s not always true.

Every now and again, the universe likes to remind me that I should never assume that there isn’t more that I can learn, and when I recently discovered that the surcharges charged on awards out of one major London Airport were lower than the surcharges for departures out of the other, it was more than a little humbling and how I’ve gone so long with that gap following me around is a mystery that will baffle me for some time.

Gap Discovered

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to buy 150,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles at an unusually low price (it was an error by American Airlines that led to the cheap price) and ever since those miles appeared in my account, I’ve been coming up with ideas of how best to use them.

It was while I was exploring two well-known sweet spots in the American Airlines award chart (the ones that involve travel between Europe and the Middle East and Europe and India) that I noticed something that I don’t think I had ever noticed before.

a screenshot of a table
42,500 AAdvantage Miles to fly Qatar Airways Business Class to India is a stone-cold bargain

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t start off my search looking for awards out of London because premium cabin departures out of London attract some disappointingly high taxes and fees,  but because a lot of routes are still suspended (thank Covid!), I knew that my choices would be limited and so London was where I started my search.

When searching for flights out of London I instinctively search for departures from Heathrow because it’s the more convenient of London’s airports for me, but because the American Airlines search engine is happy to show departures from all London airports even if you specify Heathrow as your departure point, the results of my first search for flights from Heathrow to Delhi threw up departures from Gatwick as well as Heathrow.

The first flights that appeared were for non-stop travel with British Airways which unsurprisingly, came with high associated taxes and surcharges ($512.40).

a screenshot of a computer

Then, as I scrolled down the results to find a better option (a more premium airline than BA), I saw this:

a screenshot of a computerI fully expected to find a partner award where the taxes and surcharges were lower than for BA’s flights, but I never knew that all other things being equal (same carrier, same date, same destination, the same number of stops, etc,…) you will pay lower taxes/fees if you depart from Gatwick instead of Heathrow.

How have I gone through life not knowing this?! 

Just to be clear (in case anyone else had no idea that this was the case), this doesn’t just apply to the London – Delhi route.

Here’s London to Abu Dhabi:

a screenshot of a computer

And here’s London to Doha where one screenshot not only shows you how departing from Gatwick is cheaper than departing from Heathrow, but it also shows you that you’d have to be nuts to choose BA over Qatar Airways:

a screenshot of a computer

  • Fly Qatar Airways non-stop from Gatwick and pay $280.35 in taxes/fees
  • Fly Qatar Airways non-stop from Heathrow and pay $315.15 in taxes/fees
  • Fly British Airways non-stop from Heathrow and pay $491.35 in taxes/fees

Yes, I’ll happily concede that the difference of approximately $35 in the taxes between departures from Heathrow and departures from Gatwick isn’t going to blow most people’s budgets, but if you’re flying as a family of four and it doesn’t make much difference to you which London Airport you fly from, why wouldn’t you save $140 and choose Gatwick over Heathrow? (Also, don’t forget that long-term parking at Gatwick is a lot cheaper than parking at Heathrow).

Bottom Line

Despite booking hundreds of trips in and out of London over the years, my brain has never registered the fact that the taxes and fees charged for departures from Gatwick are lower than those charged for departures from Heathrow and I have no idea how I’ve avoided realizing that for all these years.

It may have something to do with the fact that I always search for flights out of London Heathrow (because Gatwick is usually inconvenient for me) so Gatwick has never really featured prominently in my bookings. But that’s not an acceptable excuse.

I think that on some level I knew that Heathrow was more expensive than Gatwick (I’m acutely aware that Heathrow is always doing its best to increase any charge that it can), but my brain didn’t put two and two together to figure out that this would mean that awards out of Gatwick would be cheaper than awards out of Heathrow.

Embarrassing doesn’t even begin to describe this gap in my knowledge and now it has got me wondering if there are any other worrying gaps that I’m going to discover? Unfortunately, I’m genuinely worried that the answer to that question may be yes! 🙂

Has anyone else discovered a shockingly basic gap in their knowledge or is it just me?

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  1. Hi, I knew LHR was far more expensive that LGW, but always thought that the “taxes and fees” would be the same for each airline. Apparently BA still delights in gouging flyers. Also I think you made an error when you stated in the article “…you will pay lower taxes/fees if you depart from Heathrow instead of Gatwick.” should be the other way round I think.

  2. I feel like I got a bargain with taxes and fees of only 451 Euros or about US$525 for business class on BA from Paris to London to JFK and then JAL from JFK to Haneda to Sydney and finally Qantas from Sydney to Gold Coast as one booking but when I priced it just LHR to JFK it was way higher at US$620 in taxes and fees on BA. Hard to figure the way they work out the fees and taxes.

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