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We join Luxair’s first flight from London City Airport to Antwerp

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On Monday, London City Airport welcomed a new direct route to Europe with the introduction of Luxair’s service to Antwerp.

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.

Why Antwerp?

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.

Comments (58)

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  • signol says:

    I didn’t realise it was so long ago but it was 2011 that I flew this route on VLM on a Fokker 50! http://signol.blogspot.com/2011/05/archive-round-europe-in-4-12-days-5.html?m=1 last few paragraphs.

  • RussellH says:

    The only time I spent more than an hour or so in Antwerp was about 20 years ago. I met the then sales manager of VLM (he soon went on to greater things, I have forgotten his name), but one of the more fascinating things he told me was that a significant and lucrative part of the market for the MAN-Antwerp flight at the time was for the orthodox Jewish population of Greater Manchester who preferred to consult the Rabbis in Antwerp than they did the local Rabbis.
    (Or maybe it was just when they wanted to consult a Rabbi on a particularly sensitive topic.)

  • vlcnc says:

    Is there much of a timesaving with this over taking the Eurostar + local connection on to Antwerp?? Especially as London City isn’t that centrally located. I generally prefer to use Eurostar when I can for these trips that are only couple of hours and it is more comfortable too, particularly if you need to work.

    • Stu_N says:

      As ever it depends on whether the timing of the options actually works for you, exactly where you start and finish and how you balance speed of travel against loss of productivity from dead travel time.

      • vlcnc says:

        Of course that is correct, but given reduced demand for business travel in general I suspect the appeal of this will be limited overall given the limited catchment area that makes this worthwhile. Also remember now with the Elizabeth line from Canary Wharf which can get you to Heathrow fairly quickly, the advantages of LCY are also reduced now so not sure they will be able to demand much of a premium for this. I can’t see it lasting long.

        • Londonsteve says:

          If you factor in having to leave at least 45 mins to get to Heathrow from CW versus 10 mins to LCY, then the fact that you’ll need at least an extra hour to pass through the airport, LCY remains an extremely time efficient and comfortable option. Flight times are also less ‘variable’ compared to LHR due to the much shorter taxi and queue for take off.

          • vlcnc says:

            Not sure where you have got 10 mins from, it takes at least 20 minutes from Canary Wharf to London City Airport and that is just is just station to station. Take your point about LCY being more comfortable, efficient and speedy though especially in terms of getting from landside to airside.

      • CamFlyer says:

        Exactly right. I had occasion to travel from to Antwerp on business last year. A same day return by rail with the Brussels connection meant one could not arrive in Antwerp until early afternoon (in light of the time zone difference); going outbound by air from LCY would have been more reasonable for a same day return. LuxAir clearly think there is enough demand, as did those in Antwerp with whom I spoke!

        I agree with the other posters; Antwerp is an underrated destination for a leisure visit. The rail station is even more impressive inside than out; behind that facade, platforms are stacked vertically over three levels.

        • vlcnc says:

          That’s not true – first Eurostar train is around 6:15 to Brussels, arriving Brussels approx 9:15 – takes 45 minutes to Antwerp from there so you can comfortably get there by 10:30 easily. Also you can also easily return on the train if you want to do same day there and back, with Luxair you’d have to overnight. Also given the early flight time on two of the days, you’d unlikely be in the office in Canary Wharf at that time (unless you live nearby), so that means a journey to LCY in the morning from another part of London which is far less convenient than London St Pancras. And for leisure trip, I agree Antwerp is worth a visit and I’m looking to go, but I’d definitely take the train in that case. Really not convinced this is all very convenient or viable – I can’t see people using this.

          • CamFlyer says:

            Last year the first Eurostar to Brussels was later—0915, iirc. In any case taking the 0615 assumes one is within a reasonably short distance of StP. From further out LCY can be more convenient, particularly for an early morning flight when trains are less convenient. The point is that it’s a differentiated offering, and LuxAir believe there is enough traffic to make it work economically for them.

  • E4 Traveller says:

    BA doesn’t even bother with Kettle chips (don’t you mean Tyrrell ready salted?) in Euro Traveller any longer. Now it’s a mini bag of Penn State pretzels. Meanwhile a £35 return flight now requires 10,000 Avios.

    • Poplar86 says:

      Except of course for the BA Cityflyer flights (to/from LCY) which still have a full complimentary bar service and snack 🙂

  • Kwab says:

    Haha……the beauty of the station is the interior, especially the grand entrance and stair case. You did go in I hope?!

    • sloth says:

      agree with this, it reminded me of Grand Central in NY…not surprising really I guess

      Antwerp is a great city to visit, went for the first time in December and thought it was great

    • Bagoly says:

      I fear he didn’t as otherwise he would surely have been more enthused.

  • Smid says:

    I lived in Antwerp for four years, I could do city centre to my door in Wolverhampton in about five hours via Eurostar, which was comparable to going via BHX to BRU (with the luggage time, and checkin, and contingency).

    I think it’s one of the best cities in Western Europe, much better than Brussels. If any of the stag do lot find out, that will be full of the drunk types. Antwerp is much more of a 24 hour drinking city than Brussels.

    The old town with the Grote Markt is the best area, station can be a bit dodgy and closes early for that reason. Lovely zoo by the station though and more accomodation, 20 minute walk to the old town.

    4 restaurants which are covered by the Amex 150 quid meal credit too. We ate in one in September, Bar Bulot, it was lovely.

  • Kwab says:

    Everyone….sssh please! Let’s not ruin the place or the country!

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