Deep in the London Docklands and down the road from the O2 Arena are the only two locations worldwide where you can fly with Emirates for £3.50. Unfortunately, this doesn’t get you a flight on their signature A380s or even their B777s, however it does get you a one-way ‘flight’ on the Emirates branded cable car officially known as the Emirates Air Line and unofficially known as London’s dangleway!
I’d been in North Greenwich for the afternoon for work and having had 15 minutes to sit by the river, I’d watched the gondolas of the Airline pass across this rejuvenated stretch of the Thames. When I’d finished for the day, I decided to treat myself and rather than take my standard route via the Jubilee line to Stratford, took the Air Line across the river and then the DLR up to Stratford.
Whilst the Air Line is rather stand alone and is more of a tourist attraction than a commuter route, it does feature on the Tube map and is a short walk from connections to the wider TfL network at both ends. At the southern terminal, Greenwich Peninsula, North Greenwich station and the Jubilee line are just a few minutes’ walk away, with the adjacent bus station also offering connections across south-east London.
The northern terminal, Royal Docks, is a couple of minutes’ walk to Royal Victoria DLR station which provides direct trains to Beckton, Stratford International and Tower Gateway, whilst Canning Town and connections to the City Airport/Woolwich Arsenal branch and Jubilee line are just one stop away. Royal Victoria is also one of the stations that provides access to Excel London and so the Air Line is great if you are visiting an exhibition and then want to head across to the restaurants and bars around the O2.
The one-way journey across the river takes 10 minutes (reduced to 5 minutes in peak times), and at its peak height is 90m above the Thames. I managed to time my journey just right in the early evening as the sun began to set which provided some stunning views of Canary Wharf and London’s docklands. The Air Line also passes under the western approach to London City Airport’s runway and so seeing aircraft passing over whilst descending for landing was definitely a highlight for this AvGeek.
Plans for a cable car crossing the Thames from the Greenwich peninsula have existed since the late 1990s, with the route initially connecting the peninsula with East India station in Tower Hamlets. The current project was announced in 2010 and with an eventual cost of £60million, was more than double the initial budget for the 1km route. This increase in costs resulted in TfL seeking funding from the European Regional Development Fund, who funded about a sixth of the project, and sponsorship for the final operation, hence the Emirates branding.
Adjacent to the northern terminal of the Air Line, is The Crystal, a permanent exhibition about sustainable development which is owned and operated by Siemens. Opened in 2012, The Crystal is the most sustainable building in London and the first worldwide to achieve two of the highest accolades for sustainability. Whilst The Crystal is not open to the public, it is set in 18,000 square metres of public open space which is designed to promote sustainability and hosts community gardens and local food programmes
Whilst the Air Line is not in the most connected part of London, if you’re heading to the O2 or Excel it is well worth the £3.50 ride just to experience the views and with relatively quick connections to the DLR and Jubilee lines, you can easily take the Dangleway one way and make your way back via these. Whatever else, you can say you flew with Emirates for just £3.50