London City kicks off flight expansion consultation

A ten-week consultation on increasing the cap on how many passengers can use London City airport is being instigated as it responds to post-pandemic travel recovery.

The Docklands airport is seeking to raise numbers from 6.5 million to 9 million by 2031. 

This would involve a lifting prohibition on take-offs and landings between 12.30pm on a Saturday and 12.30pm on a Sunday, with an intention to operate between 6.30am and 10pm on a Saturday, the Financial Times reported. 

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London City also wants to be allowed to operate 12 flights between 6.30am and 7am six days a week, up from the current six flights, and for more leeway to allow late-arriving aircraft to land after 10pm rather than divert. 

There would be no change to its Sunday hours of 12.30pm to 10pm.

The airport is not seeking to lift its current cap of 110,000 flights a year, which it did not come close to exceeding even pre-pandemic. Additional capacity would not need extra infrastructure, following upgrades to the terminal building and taxiways, the airport said. 

Local residents have been offered a “commitment” that only new and comparatively quiet aircraft would be allowed to operate during the extended operating hours. 

No increase to the current annual limit on flights is proposed. In order to meet its targets of achieving 80% of journeys to and from the airport by sustainable transport modes, no additional car parking is proposed either, according to the airport.

The easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions means the airport expects to handle three million this year, returning to pre-pandemic levels of five million a year as soon as 2024. 

Chief executive Robert Sinclair reportedly said: “The strength of our rebound demonstrates the huge pent-up demand for travel and the need to plan responsibly for the future.” 

Once the consultation closes any plans would initially be presented to the London borough of Newham, the local council, with appeals to the Planning Inspectorate and ultimately central government possible.

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