London City Airport shelves increased flights plan for now to focus on recovery after pandemic

East London campaigners are relieved to learn London City Airport has shelved plans to increase its operating hours.

The airport published its long-term vision for the future today (Friday December 4) after a consultation with residents, passengers and stakeholders last summer.

Campaign groups like HACAN East were previously concerned by suggestions the airport might seek to increase flights at the weekend, as well as earlier and later each day.

However, following a huge drop in passengers due to the coronavirus pandemic, CEO Robert Sinclair says the airport’s focus “has to be on recovering” for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless London City Airport has not abandoned its long-term aim of 151,000 flights a year, which campaigners fear will have a serious impact on residents and the environment.

In response to “concerns raised by many who responded to the consultation”, the plans state the airport has “no immediate plans to extend the operating hours”.

However, it adds: “We will keep this under review as the airport recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Should any future adjustments be proposed, these would be considered and consulted upon through the planning process before a decision is taken by the relevant authority.”

Robert Sinclair said: “It is clear that our focus has to be on recovering from the devastating impacts of COVID-19, supporting our communities and welcoming back passengers and airlines to London’s most central airport.

“While the shock of the pandemic has been significant, history shows us that aviation is an incredibly resilient industry as people’s desire to travel, whether for business or leisure, is never diminished for long.

“As the country plans its recovery, I am convinced that aviation will play a key role as the UK builds back better.”

HACAN East chairman John Stewart said the news was a welcome development and the result of a “huge campaign” by both residents and local councils.

He said: “Our concern remains that they would like to lift the annual cap on the number of flights to 151,000.

“Pre-COVID, the number of flights a year was around 82,000 so that’s almost double and would be a significant increase for local people. It’s a red line for us, we would be opposed to that.”

However, he said he did not believe the airport was likely to increase flights “any time soon” given the “massive difficulty” of recovering from COVID.

He added: “I think if there hadn’t been COVID, it would be a different matter altogether.”

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter