We all have that bad experience flying into London, getting stuck in customs or that one nasty security officer who always insisted that we and our belongings were a hazard to society. Little do we know there's ways not to completely avoid but to at least mitigate the hassle of landing in one of the world's biggest and oldest cities. First tip is to know what these airports are and which one your flight arrives or departs from.
London Heathrow (LHR) is the airport of choice for the big international passenger flights from all over the world. Split into five different terminals, being aware of which one you are flying into can mean a world of difference. Arriving by British Airways (BA) normally means you'll be funnelled through to Terminal 5 which is used exclusively by them. Most of the terminals can get crowded especially during peak travel season like Easter and summer holidays, so be prepared to enter the fray.
Gatwick (LGW) is the next biggest airport located south of the city proper. It is a popular second choice for larger airlines seeking to increase flight frequency to London without having to pay for exorbitant landing slots in Heathrow. These flights usually end up as being cheaper while not subjecting yourself to the crowds in the main airport. Do note that getting to the city is more problematic than through Heathrow.
Stansted and Luton
Chances are if you booked that flash sale ticket on RyanAir, this is where you're headed. Stansted (STN) is a base for many low cost carriers. Here, expect it to be mainly leisure passenger traffic heading for that weekend getaway or summer vacation. Luton (LTN) has a similar carrier make-up but boasts the fastest connectivity by rail to the city centre at 22 minutes. Here, having some form of priority boarding or fast-track access will be exponentially useful since most passengers on low cost carriers will not have that available to them.
The black sheep of the group and the furthest away, Southend technically isn't in London anymore even though it does service the area. Flights are limited and is overrun by the burgeoning number of budget flyers. Best to be avoided unless you don't live in London.
By far my favourite of the lot, London City (LCY) is an elusive tiny terminal which resides right in the heart of London. It only accommodates smaller aircraft and thus the number of flights and seats a day are severely limited. Most of these flights come from other European capitals and are popular with business travellers who are looking to make a short hop between the cities for meetings and the like. Fares, consequently are higher compared to the other airports, and if you are arriving from another continent, landing here guarantees a stopover in another major European airport. The benefits are huge though, with short queues and direct tube access into the city.