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Next week we'll arrive in Luton by plane and need to get to London (somewhere in Brent).

We'd like to take the bus (since it is the cheapest as far as I can tell) from Luton to London (either Golders Green station or Finchley Road & Frognal) in order to get to our accommodation.

The problem is that when I try to make the reservation, there are concrete departure times noted in the summary. Will we be able to board a later bus if the landing in Luton is delayed? Will we be able to board an earlier bus (for the return trip) if we feel traffic is going to be a problem?

If the answer is no, then I saw that one can purchase tickets on the spot in the airport. Will they be more expensive? Where can I purchase them "on the spot" for the return trip, the driver, ticket machines in Golders Green/Finchley Road station)?

Later edit: Forgot to ask about Green Line, their tickets seem a bit more expensive, but do not have set departure times. What is inconvenient here is that the only timetable I found was a hot mess. Is there a Green Line bus every 30 minutes?

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    One can indeed purchase them on the spot. Please check the prices online for "today" and "tomorrow" to estimate how much it will cost. Funny enough, you won't be paying the £1 booking fee. The main problem with this method, is if there are no seats available you won't be able to buy the tickets (you might have to wait for a later scheduled bus). – kiradotee Apr 15 at 8:36
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    Btw it's possible you can travel for cheaper. I use this website to compare my bus options - checkmybus.co.uk. You might end up at another London station like Victoria but London busses only cost £1.50 to travel around, so should be able to easily get to where you need to be via a London bus/tube when you arrive to somewhere in London. – kiradotee Apr 15 at 8:38
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    After checking the site you linked to, EasyBus and Terravision seem viable alternatives, so there are several companies, I might as well try to get tickets on the spot. – Paul Apr 15 at 8:47
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    Just a note: these are coaches. not buses. In the UK, a bus refers to a local bus: the type which runs within a city, and stops frequently at roadside bus stops. It is not possible to make reservations on these buses. On the other hand, coaches travel long distances between cities. You can make reservations. Coaches have a separate luggage compartment under the passenger area. They're two different types of vehicle, for separate purposes. – Chris Melville Apr 15 at 12:31
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    @ChrisMelville Thanks for pointing that out, I saw that they are called coaches, but never bothered to find out the difference and as a non-native English speaker I assumed it was just a synonym. – Paul Apr 15 at 12:35
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They have no obligation to take you on a later bus, but I have seen sympathetic drivers allow people to do it in the past. I very much doubt you would be able to get an earlier one.

You can book tickets on the spot from your phone or a ticket desk, they might go up in price or sell out though. If you choose the 'amendable' option it allows you to change your ticket for a different one at any time before the departure of the bus (and as many times as you want) so this would work for taking an earlier or later bus as long as you did it before your original bus left. (source)

Another alternative is to purchase a £5 add on (presented at check out) that allows you to do the following:

For just £5 each way, our Change & Go Add On lets you be completely flexible with which coach you board to and from the airport:

  • Board any available coach 12 hours before or after your original departure time
  • Amend your ticket to a new departure date - free of charge
  • Refund on your ticket up to 24 hours before departure

(Source)

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The trick is to book through easyBus. First, their FAQ notes

Don’t worry, if your plane arrives early or late, you may use the same ticket at no extra cost to travel on the next available bus, up to 60 minutes either side of your booked time. Please note we cannot always guarantee there will be spare seats, especially at busy times since passengers travelling on their booked service have their seats reserved and will be boarded first.

Second, observe their route map -- most of their London routes are not operated by themselves but "by external coach service", in this case, National Express.

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    Wow, at times like this, I feel lucky. The Oxford Bus Company lets you use your ticket up to an hour earlier or 24hrs later than the bus you booked on. I'm amazed that other companies offer such terrible service: planes being more than an hour late is hardly unusual. – David Richerby Apr 15 at 14:05
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    @DavidRicherby then book the couch ticket for 2hrs after you expect to land. – Ian Ringrose Apr 15 at 16:14
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    @IanRingrose Sure. But then you're still buying a new ticket if your plane is three hours late. And if a plane is late, three hours isn't an unusual amount for it to be late by. – David Richerby Apr 15 at 16:15
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Direct answer to my questions as they weren't answered on point (not all of them):

Will we be able to board a later bus if the landing in Luton is delayed [and made the coach reservation online with a fixed boarding time]?

Answered by Uciebila. (tldr: probably yes) We didn't buy tickets online, we brought them at the airport, on the spot.

Will we be able to board an earlier bus (for the return trip) if we feel traffic is going to be a problem [and made the reservation online with a fixed boarding time]?

We did exactly this, but we purchased the return ticket from the airport when we arrived (it didn't specify the exact boarding time for the coach).

Will they be more expensive [if we buy the coach tickets on the spot]?

No. Same price as online.

Where can I purchase them "on the spot" for the return trip, the driver, ticket machines in Golders Green/Finchley Road station)?

There are ticket machines and an office right before the exit doors from the Luton airport. We used the ticket office and I asked for return tickets, which did not specify an exact time for us to board the coach, hence we were able to use any bus (both for Luton-London and London-Luton). Sure enough the first return bus that arrived at the Finchley Road station was fully booked and the driver couldn't allows us to board, but the next bus arrived after 5 minutes and was pretty much empty, so we boarded that one.

Is there a Green Line bus every 30 minutes?

The National Express coaches were sufficient for us, so I cannot say.

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