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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

London City Airport chief: Boris decision ‘stifling’ growth

London City Airport (LCY) is enjoying record growth. This year the airport is on track to reach 4.2m passengers, up from 3.65m in 2014.

With business travellers accounting for almost 60 per cent of LCY’s passengers, this growth is a clear indicator that the business travel sector has returned to health. There is increased confidence among corporates to mobilise their workforce, helping to elevate business travel above pre-recession levels.

LCY strives to accommodate increased demand without compromising service – this is why it’s vital that the airport be allowed to develop its infrastructure, creating an additional 1,500 jobs, £1.5bn worth of economic benefit and providing much-needed air connectivity for the burgeoning business and residential sectors of east and central London in the process. To deliver this the airport does not need a new runway, or an extension to the existing runway – it simply needs to be allowed to make the most of what it already has.

Given permission to build seven additional aircraft stands and to extend its existing tiny terminal building, LCY can provide additional aviation capacity for London more than a decade ahead of any of the options recently considered by the airports commission. This injection of capacity will help to ease the strain on Heathrow, offering more short-haul European connections to free up slots at the UK’s busiest airport while providing essential additional aviation connectivity for east London.

LCY does not claim to be the solution to the capacity crunch in the South East, but it absolutely has a role to play, long before any new runway can be built.

The Mayor of London’s decision to refuse planning permission for the City Airport Development Programme (CADP) was wrong and against the recommendations of his own planners and advisors, and the airport has mounted an appeal against it. The decision ignores the significant social and economic benefits that the airport’s development will bring and sends out the wrong message about investment in East London and London and the UK generally.

Crucially, growth at LCY will open up new and emerging markets, providing connectivity to do business. It will enable the next generation of aircraft to operate from the airport, bringing with them the latest technology that is quieter, cleaner, and more fuel-efficient. It will provide direct connections, just minutes away from Canary Wharf, to eastern Europe, the Gulf, Russia and east coast of the USA.

The world wants to do business with the UK and air travel is a pivotal driver of that, if the country is to remain open for business. A new runway in the South East will not be delivered until at least 2028 – that’s more than a decade from now; a period of growing demand against a backdrop of already constrained capacity.   

The London Borough of Newham saw fit to approve growth at London City Airport, The business community – with vocal support from organisations such as the London Chamber of Commerce, CBI and London First – wants the airport to grow. The Airports Commission recognised the importance of allowing existing airports like LCY to maximise their capacity, and even the Mayor’s own officers recommended that the project be approved.

The delay caused by the Mayor’s decision simply serves to cost the taxpayer money, prevents the delivery of additional jobs in east London, hinders growth by stifling international connectivity and the much-needed air capacity boost that London City Airport can provide.

While we pursue our planning appeal, in the meantime it’s business as usual at LCY. The Western Pier, which houses 70 per cent of the departure gates, is undergoing a £16m refurbishment to maintain our passenger proposition and add 600 seats, creating a modern, open-plan layout, while the security area is being reconfigured to create more space and use the latest technology for faster passenger processing.

Our use of new technology is facilitating growth, helping to improve the customer journey and experience. Common-user self-service check-in kiosks, the latest technology in Security to speed up passenger processing, crowd monitoring software to identify potential bottlenecks before they build up so more staff can be deployed, an automated flight information Twitter service, communications devices used on the apron to maximise efficiency in aircraft turnaround, and ePassport gates are all examples of the important role technology is playing at the airport and where LCY is leading the global field.

Expansion will enable the airport to continue to lead that field and continue to offer an award-winning experience to business travellers from all over the world, showcasing London and the UK as the place to do business.

I urge you to show your support for growth at London City Airport by signing the petition at www.lcymeansbusiness.com/showyoursupport

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