Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The Emirates Air Line – flight review from, erm, Royal Victoria to North Greenwich!

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

I spent a chunk of last week at World Travel Market, the biggest travel show in the world and, in fact, the biggest trade show of any sort hosted in London.

Whilst I was over at Excel, I thought it was worth reviewing the Emirates Air Line cable car which runs between Royal Victoria DLR station and North Greenwich underground station.

As the terrible usage numbers bear out, this is pretty much a cable car ride from nowhere to nowhere.  The only reason I could see someone using it is if you were at a concert at the O2 and were staying in a hotel at Excel.  This would work fantastically well as you would be in your hotel room within 15 minutes of leaving the arena.

The Emirates Air Line cable car is now available on Oyster Pay-As-You-Go.  I was charged £3.40 for a one-way trip which, to be fair, makes it pretty good value compared to most other London tourist attractions!

This is the station at Royal Victoria:

Emirates cable car 1

Boarding

Security was not an issue (there isn’t any) and, surprised to find that there was no Emirates lounge, headed straight for the departure gate:

Emirates cable car 2

There was no boarding announcement and no attempt to board by status or ticket class.  Instead, the three of us who were waiting just hopped into the next available car.

Take-off

There was no time for any pre-departure drinks to be served (and indeed no-one to serve them) and we were soon in the air.

As this is essentially a short-haul economy service there was no in flight entertainment.  However, the views were impressive:

Emirates cable car 5

and

Emirates cable car 6

Landing

We landed promptly at five minutes past departure.  Oddly, at weekends, it runs at half speed with the trip taking ten minutes.  As I was travelling with just hand baggage, I was able to quickly depart the pod and was back on the street within seconds.

You are just a short stroll from North Greenwich underground station.  There are a huge number of bars and restaurants both inside and outside the O2 these days so it is not a bad spot to take a break from sightseeing.

The biggest problem with the cable car is you need to fit it in with some other sightseeing activities.  On its own, it doesn’t really merit the detour.  You could potentially visit on the way to Greenwich itself – perhaps going from North Greenwich to Royal Victoria and then taking the DLR to Cutty Sark.  You could also make a detour if you are heading to the Westfield centre in Stratford.  I wouldn’t necessarily head out from Central London just to ride it and come back.

(There is another attraction in the station at North Greenwich – the Emirates Aviation Experience, which includes flight simulators.  I did not have time to visit.)

If you happen to be down at Excel or the O2 and you have a pay-as-you-go Oyster, however, it is worth a trip for the novelty value.

Comments (43)

  • Smithy says:

    Has anyone tried the aviation experience referenced at the end of the article, or more particularly the flight simulator? £45 seems a lot if it is targeted at children having a play but I wondered if anyone here had seen/used it?

  • Dave says:

    I did this yesterday on route from LCY to friends in Camberwell via the DLR.

    It was cheap using the Oyster and the views were good at dusk but I wouldn’t rush back.

  • James R says:

    Your joke about there being no Emirates departure lounge got me thinking – maybe they’re missing a trick! It wouldn’t cost that much, relatively speaking, to offer it to Skywards cardholders with status and those who purchase some “business class” ticket which amounts to that plus their own cable car – and it would (I imagine) incentivise a certain kind of person to fly Emirates.

    • Brian Peers says:

      You can pay for a private car, its something like £100 ish from my memory. I was joking with the only member of staff as at the time (mid afternoon in March to pick up my London marathon race packet) that I would have had to consciously try to share with someone else.. and then they would have thought I was weird!

  • Clive says:

    Don’t ever do the cable car in Langkawi. Like others not much phases me but I broke out into a cold sweat on that one.

    • Sandgrounder says:

      I thought it was fantastic! The bridge over the gorge at the top was a bit more scary though.

  • Trevor says:

    Interesting that it now takes oyster. I went on it in the summer and it gave a discount if you had an oyster card, but you couldn’t pay with it.

    Certainly agree regarding random location and routing, but you forgot to point out that while there may be some distant views that are ok, the immediate view below is pretty dire – who ever thought of passing over scrap heaps and neglected areas? Also, why didn’t they start is closer to the actual tube station and end it closer to Excel? All rather odd.

    I’d previously had no interested, but the OH wanted to take the kids one day, so we included the trip in an all-types-of-transport trip to get to the Olympic Park for rugby: We used car, train, feet, Thames Clipper, Emirates Air Line, DLR to get there. Ended up coming back on it too since we bought an inclusive ticket for the Emirates Aviation Experience which gives a return. It meant we could do the fast trip by day, and a dusk trip back at slower speed in the evening.

    For information, the slower speed it from 7pm, and there is “in-flight entertainment”. At normal pace, there is commentary about the surrounding area which is of interest, and on the “sunset cruise” they play music videos.

    As for the Emirates Aviation Experience, you missed a review there, Rob. It takes up for more time and is of far more interest than the cable car. The entire place is interactive, kids can play in an A380 cockpit (suggest you take yours), and you can book a full cockpit simulator for £45. From memory there are 4, 2 Boeing and 2 Airbus. Plus, the entrance to it is dirt cheap. Not sure I’d go out that way just for that (and certainly not the cable car), but if going out there, I’d certainly recommend 1/2hr at least there. A shame you bypassed it.

    • Fenny says:

      Not sure why you couldn’t pay by Oyster. I’ve been using it for a couple of years and always paid with my Oyster card.

  • AB says:

    Just to clarify, the cable car is open until 23:00 on Friday and Saturday nights, so might just be ok for things at the O2 (it does close at 21:00 Mon-Thurs and Sun though). This appears to be a recent change. See https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/emirates-air-line/opening-hours-frequency?intcmp=1453#on-this-page-1 for details.

    • Rob says:

      O2 stuff finishes early in my experience. I was home by 11.15pm from U2 last week (admittedly I missed the encore) and they started 45 minutes late in the first place.

      You’re generally done by 10pm if the 7.30pm start time is adhered to.

    • Egar says:

      You may want to double check opening times with them directly, it is certainly not open at 11pm in winter (even with a show at the O2). Their own website shows different times, would be nice of them to correct it http://www.emiratesairline.co.uk/1158

  • S_W_S says:

    “no in flight entertainment” when we took the trip we had entertainment in the form of music and a TV showing various different things.

  • Kathy H says:

    During WTM the cable car was free for Oystercard holders due to DLR strike – hope you didn’t pay for it HFP 😉