On Monday, London City Airport welcomed a new direct route to Europe with the introduction of Luxair’s service to Antwerp. We went along to review it.
It marks the resumption of a route that has been operating for most of the past 25 years, previously by CityJet and Air Antwerp, before coming to a halt during covid.
This time, Luxembourgian flag carrier Luxair is making a go of it. It will mark the airline’s first flight that doesn’t originate or terminate in Luxembourg.
I always thought of Antwerp as a quaint Belgian city. I was wrong.
As I’ve quickly found out, the city is home to Europe’s largest petrochemical cluster, in part because it is also Europe’s second largest port. Total Energies operates its largest complex in Europe here, and that’s before you consider the refineries and plants from the other large producers.
Antwerp is also home to the largest diamond district in the world. Over 80% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through Antwerp’s multiple bourses and certification centres.
There’s plenty of business travel here for Luxair to be getting on with, plus interest from anyone who might want to spend a weekend break exploring the city’s beautiful Renaissance old town.
(And I recommend you do – despite miserable mid-January rain, the town centre is stunning, a lovely conglomeration of old and new architecture.)
Luxair’s flights to Antwerp
Right now, Luxair is offering a four times weekly service between London City and Antwerp. It is going five weekly in April. Here are the flight timings:
- Departing London City at 6:40am on Mondays and Tuesdays, arriving in Antwerp at 8:40am. Return 9:15am arriving at 9:15am in London.
- Departing London City at 5:05pm on Thursdays and Fridays, arriving in Antwerp at 7:05pm. Return 7:45pm arriving at 7:45pm in London.
The flight is operated on a 78-seat De Havilland Q400 Dash 8. It’s a noisy propeller plane, in other words, but perfectly adequate for the 45-minute journey across the channel. Seating is 2-2, so everyone is in an aisle or window seat.
Luxair offers a full service on the flight (at least, as full as you can get on a flight this short). In economy, this meant a full-size croissant plus a choice of beverage (hot, cold or even alcoholic, I believe). It’s certainly an improvement on the kettle crisps and water you get on BA’s short haul services.
After a bumpy approach into Antwerp due to the weather we touched down. Antwerp Airport is absolutely tiny – there are just three gates – and the whole airport is about half the size of an out-of-town Tesco Extra.
It took us about five minutes to pass through immigration, and if you’ve checked a bag you won’t be waiting long as the aircraft stand is about 20 metres away from the terminal building!
Given the small and speedy size of the airports at both ends, you’re probably looking at a travel time of an hour or so when you factor in check-in and security and immigration. As Robert Sinclair, CEO of London City Airport noted, it’s probably the fastest way to get to mainland Europe from the UK, full stop.
What is there to do in Antwerp?
It’s quite nice, actually. The city centre is perfectly walkable, and features a range of architecture from gothic brick architecture of old town houses to the postmodernism of Michael Graves’ Radisson Blu building opposite Antwerp Centraal station:
Speaking of the station, apparently it’s been rated ‘the most beautiful train station in the world’. It’s certainly not ugly, but I’ll let you be the judge!
The city has a surprising gastronomic scene – we ate at Fiera, a fantastic restaurant inside an old diamond bourse. There’s beer, of course, plus breaking-the-rules chocolate from father and son duo The Chocolate Line.
There’s also plenty of art. Although the Rubens house is currently under renovation you can find plenty of Rubens elsewhere, including inside the unusual Antwerp Cathedral. The point is, you could easily spend a long weekend here.
In terms of frequent flyer rewards, Luxair is a partner with Lufthansa’s Miles & More programme. This means that you can earn and redeem Miles & More miles on the Antwerp flights. It is NOT part of the broader Star Alliance, however, so you cannot use miles issued by other Star Alliance frequent flyer schemes such as United MileagePlus.
Thanks to London City Airport, Luxair and Visit Antwerpen for inviting us along.
Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.