Planning to book a private jet to the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer? If we could give you one piece of advice, it would be this: Don't wait until the last minute to book your trip. Commercial airlines expect an additional 500,000 visitors; British authorities are expecting 3,000 more private aviation flights than usual during July and August. Here's what it means for you.
The UK government will impose major airspace restrictions from July 14 through September 12, during both the Olympic Games and the Paralympics. We've been notified that Heathrow and Gatwick airports will be reserved for commercial airlines; general aviation (private jet) arrivals at Heathrow have been banned altogether.
To protect the controlled airspace from overcrowding, aircraft arriving into or departing from the 35 airports around the events must reserve an airspace "slot allocation" far in advance with their destination airports, append it to their flight plans, and coordinate with Airport Coordination Limited (ACL).
Slot allocations at each airport are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once those slots are gone, we have only two choices: fly into a different airport, or fly a different day, As a result, it's imperative that you book early, because we have to provide the destination airport with the full details of your flight—including the aircraft information—when reserving a slot. Additionally, slots are only valid for the time they are issued. If a flight is rescheduled or delayed, your arrival or departure will need to move to the next available time, which could be several hours later, meaning that you miss your slot.
The slot allocation system is truly egalitarian. No one will get special treatment. For example, while the Olympic always attract current and former heads of state—about 150 flights will be carrying such passengers—even their flights will have no privileges. That's because the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has declared that this is not a "state occasion."
Which Airport Should I Use?
XOJET will be using one of seven ports of entry into southern England. Most of these airports can handle any size aircraft, up to a Boeing Business Jet.
• Stansted (EGSS) is one of our recommended favorites for jet charter because it has a long runway that's open 24 hours a day. Just 30 miles from Central London, its slots are filling up fast.
• Biggin Hill (EGKB) is 14 miles south-southeast of Central London, but only operates from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time.
• Farnborough (EGLF), located 34 miles southwest of Central London, is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time and prior permission is required to fly in or out.
• Luton (EGGW) is 35 miles north of Central London and offers 24-hour operations.
• Southend (EGMC) is 40 miles east of Central London, and operates 24 hours.
• London Oxford (EGTK) is 40 miles northwest of the greater London area and is open from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. local time.
• Northholt (EGWU) is six miles north of London Heathrow and 15 miles west of Central London. Although this airport operates 24 hours a day, there are restrictions about flying into and out of it due to its use by the Royal Air Force.
Getting to the Games: No Cars Allowed
Please note that there will be no spectator parking at any London 2012 venue, and limited park-and-ride options. Billed as the "Green" Games, the London Olympics are relying heavily on public transportation—including river services. In addition, the center of London is designated as a Prohibited Zone, which means that even a helicopter won't get you close to the city centre, Wembley Stadium or the Olympic Stadium. Any aircraft trying to slip into a restricted section without a pre-approved flight plan and airport slot is likely to get an armed escort, courtesy of the RAF.
Consequently, we'd recommend asking your XOJET private aviation consultant to help you secure car service to a drop-off point that will get you closest to the event you're attending—or use the Spectator Journey Planner on the London 2012 website.