7 of the best UK airport facilities you need to know about

For many, passing through an airport is a necessary evil - the storm before the calm of holidays, travels, sun and sea. Yet, airports are continuing to evolve and are increasingly offering more in the way of facilities and services for passengers, be it free wifi (now readily available at many UK airports), or fast track access through security for those in a hurry or who really can't stand to queue.

We have picked our favourite bits from some of the UK's busiest airports with everything from the quirky and innovative to the plain helpful that shouldn't be overlooked.

1. UK's first airport gin distillery at London Gatwick

With more and more people using flight comparison sites such as Skyscanner and Kayak to find cheap fares, journeys are less standard than ever. Gone are the days when you need to fly roundtrip with the same airline. With a nod to this new way of travelling, Gatwick Airport has launched GatwickConnects, a convenient service for passengers 'self-connecting' through the airport. If you're transferring from one airline to another, you no longer need to exit, head to the check in desks, and re-enter.

Instead, simply collect your bags from the carousel, and follow the signs to the GatwickConnects desk, where your bags will be checked in for your connecting flight while remaining on the right side of security, or airside. This free and easy service promises to be far less hassle and gives you more time to relax before taking off on the next leg of your journey.

Gin distillery at Nicholas Culpeper Pub, Gatwick Airport - photo courtesy of Gatwick Airport
Gin distillery at Nicholas Culpeper Pub, Gatwick Airport - photo courtesy of Gatwick Airport

For those with a little extra time in the North Terminal, head to the Nicholas Culpeper Pub (before passing through security) where you'll find the only in-airport gin distillery in the UK. Here, the Nicholas Culpeper London Dry Gin is produced in batches in a handsome still, which is on display for all to see. The gin, named after the 17th century herbalist and physician born mere miles from the site of Gatwick Airport, is sold both behind the bar and in bottles.

2. Meet Glasgow Airport's robotic ambassador

Glasgow Airport welcomed an innovative new member of staff at the end of 2016: roll forward GLAdys, the first humanoid robot of its - or should I say, her - kind to be set to work in an airport in the UK. GLAdys is tasked with entertaining and occupying passengers old and young as the main airport ambassador.

GLAdys, Glasgow Airport's robotic ambassador - photo courtesy of Glasgow Airport
GLAdys, Glasgow Airport's robotic ambassador - photo courtesy of Glasgow Airport

From telling stories and singing songs, to mastering the selfie (thanks to a mounted camera) with passengers, GLAdys is a welcome distraction from the hassle of check in. You can find out more via the airport's social feeds and by searching the #GLAdysRobot hashtag to see what she's been up to.

3. Showcasing Yorkshire's finest at Leeds Bradford Airport

Leeds Bradford Airport wears its county badge with pride, promoting its Yorkshire Premier Lounge with vigour. The lounge, with its running TV news, hot and cold food, and 'help yourself' bar, is great value for those after something a little more comfortable while waiting to board.

The Yorkshire Premier Lounge at Leeds Bradford - photo courtesy of Leeds Bradford Airport
The Yorkshire Premier Lounge at Leeds Bradford - photo courtesy of Leeds Bradford Airport

There are separate business and leisure areas both with free wifi, and unlimited snacks and drinks. The Yorkshire Premier Lounge is a pleasant space in which to check your emails or simply enjoy a few drinks before you fly. You can walk up and pay on arrival, however if you book online in advance you're likely to save on the entrance fee.

4. Edinburgh Airport dons conductor's hat

Passengers heading to Edinburgh Airport can now use their rail tickets to travel on the tram from the city centre direct to the terminal building. Edinburgh Airport is not served by a railway station, however if you purchase your rail ticket to Edinburgh Airport in advance, and it will be valid for travel on Edinburgh Trams, requiring only a quick change in town and ensuring you don't need to buy another ticket before boarding.

Whisky lovers have much to be excited about at Edinburgh Airport also. On top of the extensive range of malts and blends available, in true Scottish spirit, you'll also find a number of exclusive whiskies for sale. Look out for The Glenlivet Alt nan Seileach Single Cask Edition, a 17-year-old malt which was specially produced to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Edinburgh Airport in 2016.

5. Interactive fun for kids at Birmingham Airport

Birmingham Airport has a handy facility for those heading off on holiday in the shape of its 'day-before bag drop' service. For those taking breaks with Thomson or First Choice, there is the option to drop your bag early if you've checked in online. You can do so at the Thomson check in desks between 12.00pm and 10.00pm up to 24 hours before your flight.

The Sky Zone play area at Birmingham Airport - photo courtesy of Birmingham Airport
The Sky Zone play area at Birmingham Airport - photo courtesy of Birmingham Airport

Families can also relax at Birmingham Airport thanks to the Sky Zone, a free-to-use play area with everything your wee ones could wish for. There's a range of interactive airport-themed games, from security spot checking to testing kids' flying skills at the Flight Desk kiosk.

6. Let AirPortr take your bags to/from London City Airport

Forget lugging your bags to or from London City Airport - use AirPortr to take the weight off your shoulders. AirPortr designed to be your personal porter, and will either deliver your bags from the airport to an address in London, or collect your bags and take them to the airport for you. Plus, any travellers flying with British Airways can benefit from AirPortr's exclusive bag collection and check in service, which promises to take care of the whole process from your doorstep to your destination. AirPortr is also available at London Heathrow and London Gatwick.

7. Shopping made simple at Manchester Airport

Want to make the most of duty free savings without dodging the sample sprays and tripping over other shopper's cases? Manchester Airport recently launched its new Reserve & Collect shopping service at World Duty Free, Dixons and WHSmith , which lets you pick your favourite items in advance from the comfort of your own home, be it headphones, perfume, makeup or sunglasses. Then simply collect your purchases from your chosen store as you pass through the departure lounge. Easy.

With airports across the UK giving passengers more options when it comes to spending their time and money, departing from the UK has never been more enjoyable (ok, that's tenuous, but you take our point). If you're considering booking any sort of travel extra that guarantees to set your holiday off on the right note, remember to check out our complete collection of online deals and discounts with savings on everything from airport lounges to airport parking.

Kirsten Henton

Kirsten Henton
Posted on Wednesday 22nd February 2017

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