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Everyone who uses it loves London City Airport.  Its tiny size makes it quick and easy to get in and out of, with no long walks down endless corridors.

And being the closest airport to the city, getting to and from the airport can be quick and convenient too.

 
 
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London City Airport (LCY)

London's smallest airport - and easiest to get in and out of
 

London City Airport features a short runway on one side of the Thames river.

This limits it to only smaller planes that can fly a steep approach and land/takeoff on a short runway.

The terminal buildings are in the bottom right of this aerial photo.

Part seven of a seven part series on London's airports - please also visit

1.  About London's airports in General
2.  London's Best and Worst Airports and Why
3.  London Heathrow Airport LHR

4.  London Gatwick Airport LGW
5.  London Stansted Airport STN
6.  London Luton Airport LTN
7.  London City Airport LCY

 

 

London City Airport is a lovely little airport.

Due to its short runway and steep landing approach angle, only a limited number of smaller size planes can use the airport, although BA will be starting service to JFK later in 2009 using A318 planes.

It is very centrally located, making travel between the airport and central London quick and easy.  All in all, London City Airport is a great choice of airport if your travel plans allow for it to be used.

An introduction to London City Airport (LCY)

London City Airport scores several superlatives.  It is London's newest airport, its closest airport, and its smallest airport.  Some people would add to this list that it is London's best airport, but it is hindered in qualifying for that accolade because it is not a full service airport - it can only service smaller planes that can land/take-off on its comparatively short runway (4984'/1508m) and that can handle steep (5.5 compared to standard 3) landing approaches.

It has one runway, very little parking space for planes, and one small terminal.  Eighteen airlines fly to 35 destinations.

The airport is privately owned.  It operates on a restricted schedule, 6.30am - 10pm Monday - Friday, 6.30am - 12.30 pm on Saturday, and 12.30pm - 10pm on Sunday.

The History of London City Airport

London's dock areas, along the Thames and to the east of the city, not only suffered terrible damage from aerial bombing during WW2 but then suffered further economic damage as the shift to containerization and roll on/roll of shipping methods made the earlier concept of small ships with individual cargos obsolete, along with all the wharfing infrastructures set up to handle them.  London's docks were unable to handle the growing sizes of container ships.

By the 1980s, what had once been the largest and most successful complex of docks in the world had become a virtual slum wasteland covering some 8 square miles.

The redevelopment of this depressed area into a major prosperous extension of London is one of the great success stories in recent city planning and development, and part of this process was the creation of London City Airport.

The concept of a short runway airport was first raised by the CEO of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) in 1981.  In November of that year an outline proposal from John Mowlem & Co plc and Brymon Airways was sent to the LDDC.

This was followed up by a sample flight in a Dash 7 to the West India Docks in June 82, and after a feasibility study later that year, a planning inquiry was held in June 1983.  About a year later, the government expressed conditional approval to the concept, but the Greater London Council objected.

Their objection was overruled in Court, with full planning permission being granted in early 1986.

Construction started shortly afterwards, with the first plane landing on 31 May 1987 and commercial operations commencing on 26 October 1987, not quite six years after the first outline proposal was put forward, and an astonishingly fast overall project timing, especially when compared to the glacial speed of new terminals and new runways being approved and developed at London's other airports.

Initially the runway was only 3,540' (1080m) in length, and required a very steep glideslope of 7.5, but the runway was subsequently lengthened to its present 4984' (1508m) length in March 1992, which allowed for the glideslope to reduce to a still steep 5.5, and these two features significantly increased the range of planes that could operate in and out of the airport.

The airport has changed hands twice since opening, and is now owned by Global Infrastructure Partners.  Global Infrastructure Partners also purchased Gatwick Airport in October 2009.

London City Airport's Single Terminal

The airport is very tiny in every dimension and measure, including the terminal building itself.  This does allow for very rapid transit through the terminal, however, and assuming no delays, you might be standing outside the terminal, with your bags, in as few as 15 minutes after your plane pulls up alongside the terminal.

The terminal was extended in 2008, and the airport also added four new hard stands for planes.  The stands are actually mounted on pilings above the King George V dock.

There are not a lot of services and facilities in the small terminal building, but you're unlikely to be spending a long time there because there's less need to arrive very early in case of problems/delays getting through the terminal as is the case at other, larger, London airports.

Future Plans for London City Airport

It is unlikely that London City will ever get another runway - there's almost literally nowhere to put it.  It may continue to slightly extend its ground service areas to allow it to manage more aircraft on the ground simultaneously, and there are some opportunities to extend the passenger facilities in the terminal area too.

In October 2008 the airport received permission to increase the number of annual flights from a previous maximum of 80,000 up to a new maximum of 120,000.  This will probably see the airport capable of handling about 5 million passengers a year, up from its present 3.3 million.

Longer term, the airport plans to be able to handle up to 8 million passengers by 2030.

Connecting between Terminals

This section is not applicable for London City Airport and its single terminal.

Connections into London

By road - car, bus, shuttle, taxi

London City Airport is not close to any freeways, because none of them come close enough into the center of London.  As such it is not a good airport to use if you want to travel on from the airport, and by road, to your final destination.

But if you're traveling just to London itself, the airport's short nine miles in to Piccadilly Circus (and even less distance to the 'City' - the financial center of London) makes it brilliantly central and convenient.

The airport does not have special airport only style bus service, although it is served by regular London Transport buses.

There are taxis at the airport, and while most things in the airport are small, the airport claims to have the longest taxi rank in Europe.  Expect to pay about 30 into the center of London.

If you're returning back to the airport, you could consider using a 'Minicab' service which will probably cost about half what a Black Cab would cost, although this saving will be less than to other airports for the simple reason the cab fare is lower to start with.

Most hotels will arrange a Minicab for you, but they often add an extra charge onto the cab's fee, so if you are able to find a Minicab service in the area of your hotel and arrange with them directly, that may save you money.  On the other hand, detractors of this idea would point out that Minicabs are not as rigorously quality controlled as Black Cabs, and there is the risk you might get a bad car, a bad driver, or not be collected on time as arranged.

So, you pay your money and take your chances.  If you have friends in London, they may be able to recommend a cab service for you.  About the closest thing to an 'official' listing of Minicab companies is this one on the Transport for London website - at least, if you choose a Minicab operator from this list, you know you're dealing with an officially licensed company.

Otherwise, you can try negotiating with a Black Cab driver to see what the best deal he will do for you might be if he switches off the meter and charges you a flat fare.  The Black Cabs will sometimes be competitive, depending on the time of day and how badly they want your business.

I usually find the best way to do this is to chat with a cab driver while taking a taxi somewhere the previous day.  At a time like that, you are clearly able to negotiate from a position of strength, but when you're standing on the side of the road, in the rain, with your bags beside you, your ability to drive a deal is massively diminished.

Underground

Now considered to be a part of London's Underground (separately owned, but seamlessly integrated from a passenger perspective) is the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which provides service to the airport.  Their station is immediately next to the airport entrance/exit, and was opened in December 2005.

DLR trains operate every 8 - 15 minutes, and it is a 7 minute journey to the Underground interchange at Canning Town and a 25 minute journey to the terminus (and interchange) at Bank.

Train

There is no train service to London City Airport.

Connecting to other London airports

In addition to traveling in to London, then out of London to the other airport, with several changes of train/tube/bus/whatever along the way, there are some direct airport to airport services to make the process slightly simpler.

Heathrow :  No direct service exists between LCY and LHR.  You'll need to 'mix and match' - perhaps train to Paddington, tube or taxi to Bank, then DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to LCY, and vice versa.

Gatwick :  Perhaps the best way to get to Gatwick is to take the DLR to Canning Town, then tube to London Bridge, and then a First Capital Connect Train from there to Gatwick.  Or, if you wanted a less stressful experience, simply grab a cab to London Bridge Station and take the train from there. Plan on at least 85 minutes travel time.

Stansted :  We're unaware of any direct service connecting Stansted and London City Airports.  From Stansted, you should take a train to Liverpool St Station and then either a taxi from there to London City Airport (about a 7 mile journey), or you could take an underground train to connect with the DLR at either Bank (this station is undergoing renovation with connections sometimes difficult) or Tower Hill, then take the DLR on to LCY.  And, of course, vice versa to travel from LCY to STN.

Luton :  We are unaware of any direct service between Luton and London City Airport.  Instead you should probably take a train between London Bridge and Luton.  To get to London Bridge from LCY, either take the DLR to Canning Town then the tube to London Bridge, or simply take a taxi to London Bridge.  Allow about an hour, depending on connecting train times.

General

There are no airbridges connecting planes to the terminal, you have to walk onto the tarmac then up a flight of stairs into the plane.

The airport offers free Wi-Fi in the terminal areas for passengers.

Left Luggage/Lockers

There are no luggage lockers in the airport due to security concerns, but you can use luggage storage rooms located in the public (rather than secure) area (near security zone A) for anywhere from a few hours up to as long as 90 days.

All items stored are security screened.  Currently, there is a fee of 5 per item per day (or part thereof).

Useful Links

London City airport official website


Part seven of a seven part series on London's airports - please also visit

1.  About London's airports in General
2.  London's Best and Worst Airports and Why
3.  London Heathrow Airport LHR

4.  London Gatwick Airport LGW
5.  London Stansted Airport STN
6.  London Luton Airport LTN
7.  London City Airport LCY

 

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Originally published 17 April 2009, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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