How do you get to the airport? Why do so few of us catch the coach?

08 March 2019

​​​In case you missed it – a week ago Transport Focus launched a new report on Getting to and from the airport – is coa​​​​ch an option? at an event out near Heathrow Airport.

Air travel is booming. So, the number of trips to airports is also growing. We all choose which way to travel by weighing up the choice, control, cost and convenience various options present. Coach travel is also growing – National Express, for example, has just reported record profits, but most people still choose car to the airport – either their own, with a lift or by taxi. Even Heathrow’s share of public transport access has dropped.

The need to be on time, cart luggage, an infrequent journey and sharing the cost all make travel by car a sensible choice for many. But this pattern of choice is becoming less practical and is broadly unsustainable – action to curb congestion and air pollution are just two key imperatives.

So working in partnership with Heathrow and the Department, Transport Focus set out to look at why people do and don’t choose coach – in general and more specifically for journeys to airports.

It may surprise you, but those who choose coach consider it a sensible, savvy, value for money option. The quality of services has dramatically improved. Coach operators are using some impressive, modern vehicles these days, which offer a degree of disabled access and a level of comfort far better  than the seats on many aircraft.

Yet, as this research also confirmed, far too many people still literally do not even think about coach as an option. Coach travel still has a stigma…. “coach is for other people,  students and young people, the old….and not for someone like me”.


Clearly, there is an opportunity for the coach sector to pursue more concerted marketing (more and branded airport services plus robust published performance statistics?). More attention can also be paid to coaches by airports themselves and by Highways England.

Transport Focus has published a five point plan which calls for government, industry and trade bodies to work to improve the public’s perception of  travel by coach and to increase its usage.

Transport Focus has already been invited by one major operator to visit and share the results in more detail, and it will be working more widely to bring all relevant parties together to make things happen.



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