Sunday 4 December 2016

Travel Insider: London City Airport isn't just for business travellers...

London calling

Published 28/02/2016 | 02:30

London city airport
London city airport
Compact size: LCY.
London City Airport: One of the world's most scenic approaches. Photo: Andrew Holt

London Airport is small and exclusive, but it's more affordable than you may think, says our Travel Editor.

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Imagine an airport just four miles from one of the world's great business districts. Imagine a bird's eye view of an iconic cityscape on approach, and a transfer from plane to public transport that takes just 10 minutes.

Well, that airport exists.

And what's more, it's just a short hop from Dublin or Cork.

London City Airport isn't perfect, of course. It feels like a hi-tech Farranfore, with free Wi-Fi, upmarket boutiques, a Bloomberg media wall and slick seats with their own snack service. But the small size and 1,199m runway means most routes are short-haul, and two of my last three flights have been impacted due to weather.

Its lounges get cramped when departures back up, and a 'silent airport' policy means no boarding calls (you can, however, get live flight information by tweeting your flight number to @LCYFlightInfo).

The flipside of its compact size, however (you could fit LCY into a hangar at Heathrow) are brisk check-in and security runs, and lots of business-friendly touches like charging points and valet parking.

A record 4.3 million passengers passed through last year, and a €20m development will add 600 seats to a transformed, open-plan Western Pier.

It's set for completion by summer.

The latest news? London City Airport is up for sale.

Several bidders are reported to be interested as I write, although both British Airways and CityJet have bristled at a mooted €2.5bn valuation, suggesting that any new owner would have to hike airport charges to recoup such an investment.

Will that mean higher flight prices for passengers like you and I? Quite possibly - so give that awesome approach a go before it does.

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Before I first used London City Airport, I imagined it as a red carpet runway designed (and priced) for VIPs.

It's certainly geared towards business travellers, but the fact that BA (ba.com) and CityJet (cityjet.com) compete on the Dublin/London route means prices are lower than you might imagine.

Going to press, CityJet had midweek departures in March from €36 each-way, including snacks and a free 23kg checked bag. The Docklands Light Railway is a hell of a lot cheaper than the £22/€28 Heathrow Express, too.

Splash

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Dermot Desmond bought LCY for €30m in 1995, before selling for an estimated €960m in 2006. Global Infrastructure Partners is the current majority-owner, with reports valuing the airport at €2.5bn.

A short runway and steep 5.5-degree approach limits plane sizes, but BA operates a Club World London City service to New York's JFK on an A318 configured for 32 lie-flat seats. 'It's like having your own private jet,' it says.

Personal iPads, a 15-minute check-in and Preclearance in Shannon are among the perks from around €2,215 return.

NB: Prices subject to availability.

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