A picturesque city center and a huge variety of superb museums – Oxford is one of the key tourist destination in Southern England. Due to its proximity to London, it is not that surprising that there is a huge variety of bus services between London City and Oxford City. There is, however, just one company, which is directly connecting Oxford City with the the two major London Airports, Heathrow and Gatwick: the airline. This bus shuttle is driven by the Oxford Bus Company. I tested their services in March 2019, when I headed to Oxford for two Rock of Ages shows. Here is my review.
the airline – Network and Fares
the airline operated between Oxford and Heathrow as well as Gatwick. If you board the bus in Oxford towards one of the airports, you may enter at one of nine stops in the city. The inbound way just covers eights stops, as shown in the chart below (taken from the company’s website).
This is one of the key problems of the service: even on the outbound service to Heathrow , it took me some thirty minutes from Gloucester Green bus station to the Thornhill Park & Ride stop, which is the last Oxford one. You need to clearly state that I took this ride at a Sunday morning, departing 8:30 (a.m.!), no rush hour. The stopping, processing passengers and loading of luggage takes that long. The trip from Thornhill to Heathrow T5 was less than an hour. Both busses, Heathrow and Gatwick, also stop at Lewknor close to the motorway.
The price for a one-way ticket on the Oxford-Heathrow route (or vice versa) is 23 GBP. Same day/next day return is 25 GBP, open return 30 GBP. The Gatwick route is 28 / 32 / 37 GBP. Entering at Lewknor towards the airports does not lead to a discount. You may go to Oxford for a quite low price, though. The Gatwick route is served about once an hour the whole day and takes some 2 1/2 hours. The Heathrow route is served every 30 minutes in each direction.
the airline – Busses
I am not an expect for bus brands, but I guess that the airline uses Scania and Volvo busses. Most of the buses I saw were branded in blue colors. However, my outbound service from Heathrow to Oxford was a white bus.
The interior of the busses is very modern. On both trips, the bus was not spotless, but sufficiently clean. The seat pitch was fine, you had a standard recline. The most comfortable seats are at the rear emergency exit, of couse. There are not seat pockets or tables. However, the bus features standard power plugs. There is a toilet in the bus as well. My outbound bus features WiFi, while the inbound one did not have any free internet onboard. There is no additional service like snacks.
the airline – Boarding at Heathrow
I boarded the bus at Heathrow at Terminal 5. The bus is located at lot number 10 (though the parking situation may cause you to board from 9 or 11…). The bus is servicing Terminal 5 as well as the Central Bus Station, which services Terminals 1 to 3. There is no connection to Terminal 4, you need to take the Underground connection to reach the Terminal building. On the route from Oxford to Heathrow, the bus is servicing Terminal 5 first. Inbound, the bus starts at the Central Bus Station accordingly. There are no services in direct proximity. However, the terminal with sanitary facilities and stores is less than hundred meters away.
the airline – Boarding at Oxford
I chose Gloucester Green bus station to board and unboard the bus in Oxford. The bus station is quite buzy, mainly covering shuttles to London city center. There are also some shops around. One is even offering left luggage service during opening times.
the airline – My View
The service provided by the airline was absolutely fine. I would have loved to have free WiFi on the way back from Oxford, though. The travelling time through Oxford is too long as well. Finally, the price is quite high, compared to the city-to-city services (which have a longer route and have to pass more traffic jam areas). The X90, which is also driven by the Oxford Bus Company, connects the cities for a 8 GBP undiscounted fare, for example. the airline just does not have any competitor on this route and cashes it in. Finally, the price is not too greedy and any potential alternative takes significantly more time. Thus, I was absolutely fine with the company’s service.
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