FLYING 90m ABOVE THE RIVER THAMES | Darrin Henry
The Emirates Air Line cable car climbed so steeply and quickly out of the ground station it took all four of us by surprise triggering a spontaneous and very noisy, laugh out loud combination of nervousness and excitement!
It was exhilarating as we soared upwards and the people and boats below shrunk down to a toy set. With a whole carriage to ourselves, or ‘cabin’ as it’s called, it has to be one of the best value London attractions at £3.50 one way, leaving out the free national museums and the Sky Garden on Fenchurch Street, of course.
‘Taking off’ from near the Millennium Dome, the ‘flight’ in the Emirates Air Line cable car took just under 10 minutes, climbing to 90m above the river with 360 degree views of this part of the city of London.
We were looking down on the Millennium Dome, or O2 Arena as it’s currently called and a bunch of other famous sights. The skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, the ExCel London building, the Thames Barrier, the Royal Victoria Docks and planes climbing out of London City Airport; a London sightseeing overload.
In fact it was just too much to take in all at once. We kept calling out to each other to “come look at this” or “wow, look down here!” We wanted to look out every side and take selfies all at the same time, it was mad!
Things To Do In London Over The Holidays
It was the last day of summer holidays in UK. Looking for things to do in London on a day out with our nieces, Inka and Elizabeth, we went online and bought a family day ticket for £50 that included the all day hop on, hop off river ferry, a return ‘flight’ on the Emirates Air Line and access to their airport exhibit.
It was brilliant! The boat ride up the Thames on a MBNA Thames Clipper (despite the grey weather) was fantastic, a river tour of the amazing skyline including the London Eye.
After a stop at Greenwich to have some lunch and take a quick look at the Cutty Sark, another of the superb London attractions, we caught the boat again to the North Greenwich Pier. Alighting near the Millennium Dome (O2) we had a two-minute walk to the Emirates Greenwich Peninsula, aka the cable car ground station.
Boarding was easy. The cable car moves continuously, but slows to a crawl inside the station to allow easy access.
The Airbus A380-800 Experience
I was surprised there weren’t more people. Central London is always heaving, perhaps this was too far out of the way. But it meant we got a whole cabin to ourselves which meant no need to be embarrassed about getting excited!
At the Emirates Royal Docks ground station, the other end of the cable car ride, we disembarked and went in search of an ice-cream. Then the flight back across the Thames to the Greenwich Peninsula. Again, smooth as you like, although this time we were less hyper knowing what to expect and took in more detail. We noticed in particular there’s a gentle ‘bouncing’ of the cabin at the mid-point across the river, evident by the cabins travelling in the other direction rising up above then down below us.
Once back at the ground station we used the same tickets to gain access to the Emirates Aviation Experience, a state-of-the-art exhibition room which had something for everyone including an Airbus A380-800 aircraft mock-up (the nose part anyway). The kids loved the interactive challenge to load and balance an aircraft to prepare it for a flight while the ‘how a jet engine works’ display I found superb. We were all wide-eyed sitting in the mock-up Airbus A380-800 cockpit which was huge! If that’s to scale then it’s much, much bigger than I expected.
We finally dragged the kids away from the aircraft loading game. Their best effort saw the plane 125 mins late for departure but we didn’t have time for any more attempts, it was first day of school next day. Onto the ferry we went and back along the river again. Clutching our complimentary panoramic souvenir pull-out brochure from our flight, we headed home, tired but happy having ‘flown’ on one of the coolest London attractions.
Best Bang For Your Buck In London
If you’re looking for things to do in London with kids and thinking of ‘flying’ the Emirates Air Line I highly recommend it. You can access it with a regular Oyster card where the charge is £3.50 one way.
We bought the ‘Emirates Air Line and MBNA Thames Clippers River Roamer’ family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) at £50. This allowed all day hop-on, hop-off travel with MBNA Thames Clippers to 15 piers plus the Air Line flight and Aviation Experience centre at the North Greenwich cable car station. Purchasing online and printing out our ticket made the travel quick and easy.
In comparison it was £26 per person to ride the London Eye, so this Emirates experience was easily better value (longer and higher ride) and the views are brilliant. Combined with a river cruise or visiting the O2 Arena or Greenwich, it makes a London sightseeing trip out to this part of the city a fantastic, memorable day out.
To access the Emirates Air Line from the Royal Victoria Docks end is just as easy. The Royal Victoria DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station is just 158 metres from the cable car station.
Emirates Air Line Quick Facts:
The Emirates Air Line opened on 28 June, 2012, in time for the London 2012 Olympics.
The cable across the river is 1.1km long, suspended across three helix towers.
There are 34 cabins which can accommodate up to 10 people each and fly between 2.2m and 4m per second.
Construction of the Air Line took just under a year.