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20 JULY 2020
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Where next as LCY tiptoes back into operation?
Conceived as a business travel airport to connect the nation’s capital with the regions and Europe, London City Airport (LCY) is back serving the capital after its Covick-19 three-month shutdown.
Malcolm Ginsberg, Editor-in-Chief of Business Travel News, has followed LCY since it was a gem of an idea by (Sir) Philip Beck and the late Reg Ward, and has written the official history of the airport. He asks the question “Where next for City?”
“In 2019 nearly half the passengers using London City Airport (LCY) were leisure travellers, mainly concentrated into the summer months. The airside departure could be very busy and uncomfortable at times. No executive lounges.
Today the future of BA CityFlyer (BACF), the airport’s major carrier, is unknown.
An airline-sponsored CityFlyer press trip from LCY last week to Ibiza had no British Airways representation. “We are low key” was the word. High visibility should have been the answer, telling the world that BA was back and helping to promote the airport. The Cityflyer Edinburgh pilots’ base appears to have closed and BALPA says it has been informed by BACF of a proposal to make redundant 72 pilots out of 248.
LCY has been owned since 2016 by a Canadian consortium and the Kuwait Investment Authority who paid a reputed £2.3bn. A development plan is halfway through construction, including a much-needed parallel taxiway nearly complete. Costs have spiralled from an original £344m to an estimated £550m. BA represents 53% of last year’s 5.1m passenger throughput. The demise of Flybe and its half million clients is essentially good news for Cityflyer, particularly to Edinburgh where the two airlines competed. If you include the weekend regional operations about 50% of Cityflyer's passengers could be considered leisure. It has taken over Flybe’s Belfast operation replacing Amsterdam where it competed with KLM.
Airport Chief Executive Robert Sinclair admits that decisions will have to be made as to whether the terminal expansion should continue or be put on hold. Extra aircraft parking space has been completed, which is good news.
The airport is struggling back into life.
There are now limited flights to Amsterdam, Dundee, Florence, Ibiza, Isle of Man, Luxembourg, Malaga, Palma and Teesside. Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow return shorty. No news yet on Geneva and Zurich, nor LOT’s operations or Alitalia.
Cityflyer employs just under 600 staff and last year turned in a strong performance doubling its pre-tax profit to £42.1m. It operates 24 Embraer E series aircraft and has been evaluating new aircraft including the partially Belfast-built Airbus 220, which could reach New York JFK non-stop, replacing a former service which went via Shannon. The Embraer 190 offers 98 seats and the Bombardier up to 120.
On Wednesday morning (22 July) London Mayor Sadiq Khan is before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee for two hours to discuss London’s transport. Of the ten members two are from London constituencies, which pro-rata probably reflects the capital in the nation’s transport infrastructure. They all probably use the Underground, taxi services, and maybe some even the buses, and are probably London resident weekdays. Some may even cycle to Westminster? There is only one member (Scottish) who might fly into either of the capital’s two airports from home. Should they discuss London’s transport and make recommendations? It is a fair question.
LCY has a great future but the owners must be patient and dig deep. The Board needs to be fully conversant and carefully reflect on the circumstances. It is not the usual situation where you normally just look at the bottom line and ask a few questions of the management! Let’s hope they are experienced and know the airport and market.
Short-term some of the west wing airside area could easily be turned into an executive lounge for high value customers, with a VIP service and check-in, and the potential Silvertown for London City Airport Crossrail station quickly independently investigated. It may not actually add to passenger numbers at this time but would show the Mayor and London’s confidence in the future. At the worst another few months’ delay from Custom House (ExCel) to Abbey Wood would not be noticed. But London City Airport on the Elizabeth Line would certainly help in putting LCY back on the business travellers' map.
London City Airport has a great future. It needs to be fulfilled."
For another view on LCY’s future read Head for Points report.
LONDON CITY AIRPORT – 30 Years Serving the Capital
Now available from www.crecy.co.uk/london-city-airport ISBN 978-1-900438-07-0
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Graham Stephenson, UK
LCY is a jewel in the UK Airports crown. A brilliantly conceived airport that any capital city would love to have. Shame on Berlin that closed their brilliant City Airport Tempelhof (THF). LCY provides
John Jones, West Ham
What on earth is British Airways doing. I went on to the London City website and could not find a link. It has not got a simple arrivals and departures board as far as I can see. A list of operating airlines did not mention BA. Nothing noticed in the Evening Standard either. Cityflyer, as BA, is on the BA site. I worked out that there was a Monday and Friday evening return service to Edinburgh but I have got to go to Heathrow for Amsterdam until KLM starts up. Or take Eurostar.