London City Airport expansion plan approved

Exciting news to London City Airport – a £220 million plan to expand this capital city airport was given the all clear. The new and improved airport should be able to handle up to 111,000 permitted annual flights. Currently the airport handles 70,000 annual flights.

According to Newham Council, a decision is still awaited regarding where new runway capacity will be delivered. Some of the aspects of the expansion plans include a noise barrier, flight restrictions and soundproofing packages for residents.

The expansion is said to be completed by 2023 and will feature a new parallel taxiway, 7 new aircraft stands, and terminal building extensions.

The area will also benefit from the addition of 1,500 new jobs.


British Airways to increase London City flights to Isle of Man

Beginning on March 30, British Airways will expand their scheduled flights from the Isle of Man to London City Airport. This summer, the number of scheduled flights will increase from one to three on weekdays, with one flight on Saturdays and two on Sundays.

The new service will provide potential customers with easy access to the centre of London and will also allow them to connect to 25 British Airways international destinations served direct from the Docklands airport, including Frankfurt, Zurich and New York.

Benefits of flying to and from London City include easy access to Canary Wharf and the City of London. With excellent, low cost transport links on the DLR and London Underground, customers can also reach central London in less than 30 minutes.

Check in at London City Airport does not close until 15 minutes before departure for individuals travelling with hand luggage only and 20 minutes for those with checked in luggage.

All-inclusive fares from the Isle of Man to London City are available for booking now on the British Airways website. Fares include complimentary online check in and seat selection up to 24 hours before departure, two pieces of hand luggage, complimentary food and drinks on board including a hot breakfast on morning flights, and no debit card fees.

British Airways is delighted that that they will be able to expand their services from the Isle of Man as there has been a demand for additional flights that are compatible with business and leisure trips to London. The schedule will also make it possible for business travellers to have a full business day in London with the new earlier flights.


SkyWork Airlines returns to London City

A carrier based in Switzerland, SkyWork Airlines, has re-introduced a service between London City Airport and the Swiss capital, Bern. The route, described by the airline’s chief, Tomislav Lang, as a “real alternative” to flying to Zurich and Basel, offers quick access to the ski resorts of Champéry, Adelboden, and Grindelwald.

SkyWork, with its fleet of six aircraft, is one of the larger airlines operating out of Bern Airport. The carrier had previously specialised in routes to Northern Europe and the Balearic Islands, but an expansion to SkyWorks’s schedules, believed to be the largest in Bern Airport’s history, will add flights to Amsterdam, Madrid, and Budapest from October 2011.

The London City service, SkyWork’s only route to the UK, operates six times a week, on every day except Saturday. However, the flight will not reach full capacity until later this year, when the number of flights between Bern and the English capital is boosted to eleven rotations per week. British travellers will then be able to enjoy day trips to the Swiss city.

London City’s commercial chief, Matthew Hall, said that the airport would be “working closely” with SkyWork to “develop the relationship further”. Mr. Hall referred to the 28-year-old airline as an “experienced aviator”. SkyWork’s mettle will be put to the test quickly, however, as the airline will be forced to compete with British Airways and Swiss International Airlines for passengers travelling to Switzerland. The two flag-carriers have enjoyed a monopoly on Bern-bound passengers in the recent past, as they offered the only two routes to Switzerland from London City: Zurich and Geneva.

Currently, SkyWork’s planes depart from the Docklands hub in the evening, at 19.55. Tickets are priced between £113 and £157 (each way) for travel in April.


BA boosts capacity on Cityflyer routes

Cityflyer, a short-haul subsidiary of British Airways (BA), has revealed that its summer timetable from London City Airport will include 39 flights per week to popular leisure destinations. Luke Hayhoe, commercial manager at Cityflyer, said that the expansion was in response to growing customer demand.

From May 2011, Cityflyer will double the number of seats available on flights to Nice in France. Capacity on routes to Palma on Majorca and to the Balearic Island of Ibiza will also increase from July 2011. Perhaps even more exciting, for Docklands flyers, at least, is the addition of three new routes from London City: Faro in Portugal, Malaga in Spain, and the French commune of Pau in the Pyrenees. Flights to Faro begin on June 7. The first plane to Malaga takes off a day later, on June 8.

Pau, on the other hand, will be served by Cityflyer from April 2 2011. Flights to the French town are available from just two UK airports (Southampton and Stansted) at present, making the destination a rather unique addition to London City’s schedules. Pau is located close to the border between France and Spain, but the town has little in common with Mediterranean resorts on similar longitude, such as Marseille and Nice. Fans of motor racing and architecture will find the greatest joy in Pau, but holidaymakers looking for a scenic route to the Pyrenean ski resorts should also consider flying to Pau’s Pyrenees Airport.

Flights from London City to Pau will operate three times a week, on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The route will use an Avro RJ85 aeroplane, marking it as one of the first new routes from Cityflyer to use an aircraft other than the Embraer 170 or the 190. However, both Faro and Malaga will be served by the new Embraer jets. Cityflyer will travel to the Portuguese resort four times a week, while the route to Malaga will operate on a thrice-weekly basis. The two flights will be available all year round.


New Jersey route, courtesy of Blue Islands

Blue Islands, an airline based at St. Peter Port on Guernsey, will begin flying from London City Airport to Jersey on April 18 2011. The flight, which costs £85 each way, is being marketed at business travellers, according to the carrier’s chairman, Derek Coates.

The move is a bold one. The route between London and the Channel Island has a reputation for being unprofitable. Flybe and Cityjet previously cancelled routes between the two destinations, after passenger interest waned.

As Jersey regards links to London as “vital” to the island’s economy, the success or failure of the connection has implications for local businesses and industries buoyed by tourism, such as hotels and boating. Paul Routier, minister for economic development on the island, referred to the resumption of the route to London as “great news”.

Jersey is an “island of opposites”, to quote the island’s tourist board, located close to the rolling fields of Normandy in France, but inextricably tied to the port cities of southern Britain. The island is famed for its clement summer weather, which easily rivals that of Devon and Cornwall in the UK. The island’s beaches are popular with visitors, providing views out over a turquoise English Channel.

Blue Islands claims that travellers will be able to get from Canary Wharf to the Jersey seaside within two hours. Planes leave London City at 0725 every weekday, and return from Jersey at 1715. The carrier is also offering a Sunday service, which operates to the same schedule as weekday flights. Tickets for the route are already on sale, and can be booked online.


BA piles on the pounds

Regular customers of British Airways (BA) could find themselves out of pocket in future, after the flag-carrying airline increased its fuel surcharge by £12. BA says that the rise reflects the “fluctuating price of worldwide oil” in light of ongoing political crises in North Africa and the Middle East.

The BBC News website says that the average surcharge applied to tickets will be in the region of £75-125, depending on the number of hours that the plane spends in the air.

For example, any flight lasting longer than nine hours, such as London to Singapore, will incur a fuel surcharge of £88, up from £76. On First and Club World flights the levy increases to £125, a difference of £17 over 2010 figures.

Passengers on flights lasting between three hours and nine hours can expect to pay a £75 fuel tax, while First and Club World customers will have to part with £105, increases of £12 and £17 respectively. Durations of less than three hours are considered short-haul flights, and are currently exempt from the increase in BA’s fuel surcharge.

Oil prices have skyrocketed in just six months, from $72 per barrel in August last year to $104 on February 17 2011. The hike has been attributed to a weak dollar and a spate of anti-government protests in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya. Worryingly, Edward Meir, an analyst at MF Global, said that it was “unlikely (that) oil prices will settle any time soon".

BA’s fuel surcharge has served as a yardstick for the changing price of oil over the past few years. The London-based airline increased its fuel surcharge in 2008, before reducing it twice in subsequent years. Then, in December 2010, BA added £10 to the fuel tax, as oil prices reached $90 per barrel.


City is ‘Best Airport in UK’

Despite ongoing criticism of its expansion plans, London City Airport has been voted the ‘Best UK Airport’ at the Business Travel Awards, an annual ceremony that celebrates excellence in the travel industry. The Docklands hub defeated Bristol, Southampton, and Gatwick airports in the American Express-sponsored category, to take home the gold.

City, the only airport in the capital itself, is the smallest of London’s four hubs, and the 14th largest airport in the UK overall. The Docklands site is notable (among pilots, at least) for its 5.8 degree approach path, which was once described as “stomach churning” by the CEO of jet hire firm, PrivateFly.

Judges at the Business Travel Awards applauded City’s “efficiency in dealing with weather disruption,” presumably referring to the chaos caused by heavy snowfall in December. The London airport does, however, have a peculiar disposition towards foggy conditions on winter mornings, which forced flight delays on October 8, November 16, and December 13, last year. The speed at which City adapted to “heightened security” was also praised.

However, City’s joy will no doubt upset Docklands residents, who recently lost a court case to prevent the airport increasing the number of annual flights by 50%. Fight the Flights, a pressure group, says that London City “already” causes significant pollution, both noise and air, and any further expansion could be devastating for the local environment. The case was dismissed by a judge on January 20, just a few days before the airport was crowned king at the Marriott Hotel in London.

Richard Gooding, chief at London City, was said to be “honoured” and “delighted” with the ‘Best UK Airport’ award. Other notable victors included Flybe in the ‘Best Short-Haul Airline’ category and Europcar in the ‘Best Car Rental Company.’ British Airways collected an impressive four awards, including ‘Best Long-Haul Airline’ and the ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’ for the flag-carrier’s boss, Willie Walsh.


Fly to Malaga and Faro with BA

The weather outside is frightful, as Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and a hundred other artists have crooned since the song was first penned in 1945. The snow has stopped, at least for the moment, but the subsequent thaw and occasional spot of rain have done little to improve the mood of Brits on the early morning commute.

Fortunately, the winter season is almost as lucrative for the aviation industry as the summer months, which means that flights to subtropical resorts, such as Lanzarote, Malta and Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, are just a mouse click away.

The winter is also a time when British airlines begin promoting their schedules for summer 2011. Flybe led the charge in September, announcing new routes from Southampton, Gatwick, and Exeter, whilst flag-carrying airline British Airways (BA) has been releasing new flights on an almost weekly basis since October.

BA subsidiary CityFlyer has also been busy, unveiling a route from London City to Stockholm, Sweden, at the end of October, as well as new flights from the Docklands hub to Faro in Portugal and Malaga in Spain. The latter two destinations will be served by three and four weekly flights respectively from June 7 next year. Flights from City to Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Glasgow will also increase in frequency next year.

Summer routes to Palma and Ibiza will re-enter circulation at the end of March following a short hiatus over the winter. The additions combined represent a 40% increase in seats over summer 2010. Luke Hayhoe, commercial manager at CityFlyer, said that the expansion was made possible with the recent purchase of two new Embraer jets.

“There is clearly a large demand for leisure travel from London City and it’s a growing market,” Luke told PR Newswire. The airline chief noted that the addition of Faro and Malaga was a way of “venturing further into the summer sun market”.


City has ‘highly scenic approach’

The centre of London might not fit most people’s definition of the word ‘beautiful’ but private jet hire firm, PrivateFly, has recognised London City Airport for having one of the most scenic approaches in the world. The Docklands site made seventh place out of ten airports in a list of “stunning and inspirational” airport approaches, one of only two hubs in the UK to make the grade.

Sion Airport, located in the Swiss Alps, came top of PrivateFly’s poll. The tiny hub is served by just one airline, the specialist skiing holiday firm, Snowjet, and is guarded by enormous mountains, making approaches particularly difficult for inexperienced pilots. PrivateFly’s advice for Sion-bound aviators is, “avoid the hospital.”

In second place, Princess Juliana Airport on the island of St. Martin is famous the world over for its unusual approach, which forces planes to cross the tourist hotspot, Maho Beach, at very low altitude. The airport is popular with local aviation enthusiasts, who can ‘ride the perimeter fence,’ essentially, hold on until they are thrown off by the engines of departing airliners.

Gustaf III Airport on Saint Barthélemy, in the Caribbean, came in third, whilst Gibraltar Airport was in fourth place. St Gallen-Altenrhein in Switzerland was placed fifth, with possibly the only runway in the world to have been built on a swamp. Sixth is the very impressive, Madeira Funchal, which has a runway suspended 70m above the Atlantic Ocean by 180 columns.

In seventh place is the ever-exotic hub, London City, which offers visitors views of the London Eye, Big Ben, and Canary Wharf. PrivateFly lauded City’s “fairground-like” approach – “the glide path is set at stomach-churning 5.8 degrees, as opposed to the usual three.”

Nepal’s Tenzing-Hillary Airport, created by Sir Edmund Hillary and the Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, was in eighth place, with a terrifying approach that involves sharp turns, long dives into rocky valleys, and an uphill landing. Ninth on PrivateFly’s list of airport approaches needs no introduction: Las Vegas, known worldwide as a luminous haven in the barren Nevada desert, and the setting for more than a few Hollywood movies.

Barra Airport on the Outer Hebrides was number ten, chosen for a rather odd characteristic – it disappears once a day. Barra sits on the beach, and flight times are organised around the movement of the tides. The hub also makes use of three runways, designed to alternate according to wind direction.

PrivateFly’s chief, Adam Twidell, said that the ten airports mentioned are a “reminder that a journey by air can be a life-enhancing experience.”


City noise ‘worse than Heathrow’

There can be few things more unsettling than being woken in the early hours by the sound of your house shaking, or being showered in bits of energy-efficient light bulb as it explodes over the dinner table, but these are precisely the kind of incidents that occur in towns such as Wythenshawe, Manchester, and Saffron Walden in Essex.

Rather than being haunted, or besieged by telekinetic villains, these two villages are under the spell of a rather more mundane evil – aircraft noise. Wythenshawe and Saffron Walden are ‘noise blighted’ communities, two of tens of examples across the UK, with many more likely to join their disgruntled ranks over the coming years.

The spotlight fell on towns and villages around London City Airport earlier this month, after a local pressure group, Fight the Flights, discovered that the Docklands hub produces more aircraft noise than Heathrow, up to 87 decibels in some cases, roughly equivalent to standing next to a petrol lawn mower.

Local newspaper, the Evening Standard, cited a recent change in flight paths over London, and a reduction in the number of propeller-driven aircraft flying from the hub, as the reason for the increased aircraft noise. Propeller planes, such as the Bombardier q400, are much quieter than jets.

However, the worst is yet to come for residents – London City has permission from Newham Council to expand its schedules by 50%, a plan that has angered Fight the Flights. The group, which claims to be ‘anti-expansion, not anti-aviation,’ is planning to take Newham Council to court, in a bid to have the scheduling boost halted.

Anne-Marie Griffiths, from Fight the Flights, was concerned, saying "it should not be forgotten that East London suffers a double whammy, of not only London City Airport flights, but also Heathrow flights overhead, adding to the misery." The two hubs lie on roughly the same latitude, on either side of London.

Fortunately, at least for residents living in the noise-blight zone, the morning of Tuesday November 16 was a quiet one in the Docklands area of London. Flights into and out of City were subject to “indefinite delays,” after dense fog reduced visibility to just 100m. The incident is the second of its kind at City in just over a month.