The little airport with big ambitions

The first time Marc Lorenceau flew into London City Airport, the tiny outpost in London's Docklands reminded the Swiss executive of a second world war airfield. Sitting on a dock facing a 19th-century sugar factory, the airport, built on what used to be a cargo loading area for freighters, still has that Biggin Hill feel.

Since City opened 10 years ago, Mr Lorenceau (the president of Addax Petroleum) and others say they have witnessed a radical transformation from the days when just three airlines served it, flying nothing bigger than 30-passenger turboprops.

Travellers these days have access to 18 European destinations offered by 10 airlines flying jets as well as turboprops. Traffic is booming: up 76 per cent in the first seven months, against a rise of less than 10 per cent for European airports on average.

"They've done a tremendous job in expanding," says Chris Tarry, an analyst with Dresdner Kleinwort Benson.

Dermot Desmond, an Irish financier whose investments include Glasgow Celtic football club, bought the airport from Mowlem for pounds 23.5m in 1995.

Mr Desmond's first move was to hire Richard Gooding, Luton Airport's director, with the brief of making City Airport the number one choice for people from the City of London, six miles away.

"I saw the airport as underexploited," says Mr Gooding, 49, managing director since last August. "We had a marvellous location and facility, but not enough people knew about it - neither airlines, nor the travelling public."

In Mr Gooding's 12-month tenure, he has persuaded airlines to add services to six new cities: Edinburgh, Milan, Rome, Turin, Stockholm and Malmo, and he aims to bring on Glasgow and Manchester soon. Among the airlines using City are Air UK, Air France, Lufthansa, Sabena and Crossair.

After logging 727,601 passengers last year, the airport hit the 1 million passenger mark for 1997 this month, with a projected total of 1.2 million passengers for the year.

It is the City crowd he wants to keep coming. Some 73 per cent of the airport's users are business travellers, who can cover the six miles from the City in 15 minutes by taxi, and 20 by shuttle from Liverpool Street.

"Our proportion of business travellers is higher than for any airport in Britain by far," says Mr Gooding, "and that means good yield [revenue per passenger] for airlines. That's the secret of London City."

The problem is that business passengers who pay higher fares also make higher demands, particularly with flight frequencies. And that is one area where London City is already running into difficulties.

Peak-hour slots are already filled, meaning airlines offering new services must settle for landing or take-off times slightly later or earlier than peak hours.

More seriously, the airport is close to running out of expansion capacity. While authorities have set no limits on numbers of passengers allowed, rules on air transport movements (ATMs), the number of planes that may fly in and out, limit capacity to around 1.5 million to 1.8 million passengers.

The airport recently applied to double permitted ATMs to 73,000 from 36,500, without changing the airport's daytime-only hours or allowing noisier or bigger aircraft. The airport should have an answer by October .

Mr Gooding is also working with carriers to market flights as feeders to international flights out of European hubs. Air UK, now fully owned by KLM, flies four times daily to Amsterdam and is about to add a fifth flight.

"We see [flights from London City] as supporting our Amsterdam position and assisting us as feeder and supplier of capacity from the UK," says John Grant, director of Air UK's City business unit.

Aviation experts say that London City could well serve as a model for similar airports.

"I think there is an inevitability about it as major airports become overcrowded and [landing and take-off] slots ever harder to get," says Mr Grant.

In Sheffield, an airport modelled on London City opened recently. There is also Stockholm's Bromma, Florence's Peretola, Belfast City Airport and Tempelhof in Berlin - though the latter is set to be shut in 2002.

Mr Gooding has assumed leadership of a group representing these city- centre airports, to lobby jointly in political and industrial arenas.

"We want to demonstrate that it's not a one-off thing. A group of airports with common characteristics should be taken seriously by politicians and planners" he says.

City centre airports have shorter runways than larger airports, which means aircraft flying into them must descend and ascend at steeper slopes. Noise and emission levels are also a critical concern.

So Mr Gooding is talking to manufacturers as they develop planes to ensure that such aircraft meet the criteria.

"We're interested in talking to manufacturers of 70 to 100-seat aircraft," he says. "If I were talking to them as director of London City I wouldn't have enough clout, but talking to them representing a dozen airports it starts to make a lot more sense."

Mr Gooding will continue to work on adding destinations for travellers. Among those in his sights: Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin and Copenhagen.

"We feel that with around 25 destinations, we would attain critical mass maturity" and that would make European travellers to eastern London see London City as the airport of choice.

"I don't want people to think: 'Can I go there from London City?' I want to them to think: 'I am going there from London City'," he says.

News
peopleChildren leave in tears as Santa is caught smoking and drinking
Arts and Entertainment
A host of big name acts recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' in London on Saturday
musicCharity single tops chart
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall has become the eighth celebrity to leave Strictly Come Dancing
tv
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
News
i100
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Reach Volunteering: Trustee – PR& Marketing, Social Care, Commercial skills

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Age Concern Slough a...

Reach Volunteering: Charity Treasurer

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Crossroads Care is s...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000: SThree: We consistently strive to be ...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin