Airport ditches weekend flights plan

Aircraft trails
With flights from both London City and Heathrow airports directed over Leyton and Leytonstone, Waltham Forest has become the third most overflown borough in London

London City Airport scales down following pandemic, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

London City Airport has shelved plans to increase its operating hours.

The airport published its long-term vision for the future after a consultation
with residents, passengers and stakeholders – and decided not to include a bid for more weekend flights.

Local campaigners against airport expansion were previously concerned by suggestions the airport might seek to increase flights at the weekend, as well as earlier and later each day. Leyton and Leytonstone lie directly under its flightpath and residents endure significant air and noise pollution
as a result. However, following a huge drop in passengers during the pandemic, chief executive Robert Sinclair said the airport’s focus “has to be on recovering” for the foreseeable future.

In response to “concerns raised by many who responded to the consultation” the master-plan document states the airport has “no immediate plans to extend the operating hours” but 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.”

The airport’s owners continue to hold a long-term aim for raising the limit on flights from 111,000 to up to 151,000 flights a year – nearly double the number that flew in the year before the pandemic. This is despite an announcement last summer that its major expansion plans had been paused.

Robert 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.”

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

He added: “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, John said he did not believe the airport was likely to increase flights “anytime soon” given the “massive difficulty” of recovering from the pandemic and looming economic recession. He added: “I think if there hadn’t been Covid-19, it would be a different matter altogether.