City Airport: A brief history

London City Airport opened in 1987 despite a campaign by local residents who felt it was wrong to build an airport so close to where people live in one of the poorest boroughs in the country, Newham.

Newham Council, the London borough where London City is situated, is the planning authority for the airport.

The airport promised it would be just served by small, quiet planes. But these promises were never kept. City has in the last few years received permission for a 50% increase in the number of planes using the airport which from 2019 will cap the number of planes to allowed to use the airport at 111,000. At present around 84,000 planes use it each year. The quieter turbo-prop aircraft are gradually being replaced by jets.

London City was initially seen as a business airport. It was built to help the reconstruction of East London after the Docks collapsed. For most of its short life, it has primarily served the business community, with for most of that time, over 60% of passengers being business (the average for all UK airports is less than 20%). But in recent years it has tried to attract more leisure passengers. Now 50% of trips are leisure.

The business market has meant that London City is a ‘rush-hour’ airport. Its busiest hours are between 7.15 am and about 10 am and then from 4.30 pm and about 8.30 pm. There are far fewer planes in the middle part of the day and there are restrictions at weekends.

London City’s Master Plan, currently out for consultation (see news page), wants to fill in those daytime gaps and get rid of the weekend break by attracting ‘premium’ leisure passengers. It will never be able to provide really cheap flights because Ryanair ans Easyjet planes are to large to use the runway. It has no night flights and no plans for any.

The increase number of jets using the airport has a big effect on the area. For many people close to the areas the noise from the turbo-props was bearable; the noise of the jets is not. The jets require wider take-off paths so new take-off paths were introduced in 2009 with the result that wide swathes of East London are now suffering noise nuisance.

In February 2016 all the arrival and departure flight paths were concentrated, bringing real problems for many areas of East and South-East London.  Read people's stories of life under the concentrated flight paths:

 For many residents it has been a history of broken promises.

And here’s a video which illustrates those broken promises and what it is like to live with London City Airport today:

For a more detailed history click here.