London’s Most Central and Civilised Airport is a Well-Kept Travel Secret
On every frequent flyer’s wish list; an easy commute, streamlined security clearance and a short check-in. City Airport is a 13 minute taxi ride from Canary Wharf (although I’ve done it in 10) while the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) takes under 20 minutes to get from Bank to the airport’s own station. I’ve never spent more than 15 minutes before reaching the departures area. Arrival is usually equally hassle-free; from arriving at your stand you can be at the taxi stand in under 15 minutes. Especially for the business world, City is the UK capital’s favourite airport.
In 2017, the airport will mark 30 years of commercial flights. A vintage video, all shoulder pads and statement jewellery extolled City’s charms in the early 1990s – and it isn’t very different today, although fashions have changed and the number of flights increased; these days, over 4 million passengers pass through its security system each year. And it’s still small, 500,000 square meters. Compare that to Heathrow’s 12 square km. Yes, sometimes it can feels as if every janitor’s cupboard and corridor has been pressed into service, but the bonus is that, if you’re running late, it’ll only ever be a sprint rather than a long distance run to your gate.
Operators include Cityjet, Lufthansa, Flybe and Swiss, but British Airways operates the bulk of the flights. In general, City caters to a hand-luggage crowd; at the weekends, many are heading back to Europe from their London pied-a-terres. City also has an extensive route map in the UK, with flights to Edinburgh, Dundee, Cardiff and Exeter.
“British Airways flew more than 700 flights a week from City Airport to a total of 30 destinations in the USA, Europe and the UK this summer” points out Luke Hayhoe, British Airways’ general manager commercial and customer at the airport. “The Docklands airport has fantastic transport links to the heart of the city of London and beyond, making it an ideal choice for both leisure and business customers.’
Over half City’s travellers are travelling for business (compared with 17% at Heathrow) and most of its destinations are cities, In winter, however, it’s got some choice ski destinations – including Geneva and Zurich which allow a weekend on the slopes before jetting back to the office. In summer, those in the know book up Friday flights to Ibiza or Santorini as soon as they’re released.
Landing slots at City are highly prized. At the moment, it’s nearly exclusively short-haul. The one exception is BA001, which flies to New York. On the outward journey, which leaves 09.50, stopping off in Shannon In Ireland to refuel and for passengers to clear customs; when it arrives at JFK at 14.30 it does so at the domestic terminal. Uniquely for British Airways, it’s a business class-only flight that takes just 32 passengers with seats in a 2×2 configuration. The return flight, BA002 flies directly back to City, leaving JFK at 18.50, arriving back 06.50.