London City Airport is a lovely
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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,
Future Plans for London City
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
There is no train service to
London City Airport.
Connecting to other London
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
London City airport official website
Part seven of a seven part
series on London's airports - please
About London's airports in General
2. London's Best
and Worst Airports and Why
3. London Heathrow Airport LHR
London Gatwick Airport LGW
London Stansted Airport STN
London Luton Airport LTN
7. London City Airport LCY
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17 April 2009, last update
25 Aug 2018
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