This year, London City Airport – as you’ll know by now, the only London airport actually in London itself – turns 25. In 1987, a small group of people were given the job of approaching the Civil Aviation Authority with the purpose of obtaining a licence to operate an international airport. It was the first time such a licence had been granted in Great Britain for almost 50 years, but granted it was and, once The Queen had unveiled a commemorative plaque, the first flight took off for Paris.
In the intervening two and a half decades, much has taken place at LCY. It was sold in 1995 to Irish entrepreneur Dermot Desmond (who, so legend has it, flew in and out on a private aircraft called LuCY) and sold again in 2006 to its present owners, the private equity firms Global Infrastructure Partners and Highstar Capital.
Its business has grown to the current operational levels of 70,000 flights (arrivals and departures) a year, carrying 3 million passengers. In 2008 four new aircraft stands and the infrastructure to serve them were constructed at the eastern end of the airport – coinciding with the launch of the high-profile, bankers’ favourite LCY-JFK route - and in 2010/11, over £10m were spent creating six extra security lanes and expanding the departure lounge, for extra space and better facilities.
The London City Airport 20/10 proposition has become famous, and has become central to how the airport operates. For those who don’t know, 20/10 refers to a 20 minute check-in time – from terminal door to boarding gate – and a 10 minute arrival time – from wheels-down to train. It’s done by almost obsessive attention to detail – in everything from self-bag-tagging and measured queue times to aircraft turnaround targets and the relationship with the border agency. Nothing is left to chance.
In its 25th year, LCY has celebrated its 1 millionth flight (the Citijet AF5118 from Dublin, since you ask – see it by clicking here
and is on course to welcome its 35 millionth passenger, some time toward the end of the year. To celebrate the anniversary, LCY was honoured by another visit from Her Majesty The Queen, who – in an echo of her 1987 visit – met staff and the local community and unveiled yet another plaque to commemorate the occasion.
And so what of the future? Well, LCY has permission to almost double the size of its operation from 70,000 aircraft movements a year to 120,000. In the next 15-20 years, it expects to see 12 million passengers passing through its doors annually. The two millionth flight will be achieved in around half the time that it took for the first. London City Airport is set to become a catalyst and a driver for growth, in the local community and across the south east, playing its part in the regeneration of east London into a city within the city.
The future is bright – happy 25th birthday, London City Airport!