With more than three-quarters of 2019 routes operating at London City Airport (LCY) this year alongside the introduction of new routes, LCY expects pent-up passenger demand to fuel a growth surge in 2022.
The prediction follows the announcement of a busy summer schedule for British Airways, the airport’s biggest customer, and the easing of Covid restrictions, which are both helping to fuel a return to business and leisure travel.
Flights to Milan, one of the airport’s top-performing routes, which carried 275,000 passengers from the center of London to the center of Milan in 2019, will be reinstated this year. Similarly, Barcelona will return to the London City network for the first time in almost 10 years, and new routes such as Thessaloniki join established destinations like Split, Mykonos and Faro.
The impact of Covid-19 can be seen in the airport’s 2021 results. Around 714,000 passengers used LCY, which was 21% less than 2020 numbers and 86% less than 2019. In the first six months of 2021, when extensive global travel restrictions were in place, the airport handled only 75,184 passengers. In the last six months, as restrictions eased, 638,785 passengers used the airport and very strong month-on-month growth was achieved.
Business travel also came back strongly on all domestic routes, with Edinburgh the best performer. Internationally, Amsterdam was the airport’s strongest route, with KLM growing to four rotations per day in the autumn, with high passenger load factors. Other key business routes have included Zurich and Geneva (operated by Swiss) and Frankfurt (operated by Lufthansa).
In October and November last year, business travel accounted for over 46% of all LCY journeys, which was the total year average in 2019. Between late September and late November, over 30,000 passengers used the airport each week, peaking at 37,000 in late October. The UK government’s announcement of additional testing and self-isolation requirements to combat the Omicron variant saw passenger demand fall by 40% in December. Business traffic is expected to be further strengthened in 2022, with British Airways moving most of its Luxembourg traffic to LCY to complement the five daily flights soon to be offered by Luxair.
Robert Sinclair, CEO of the airport, said, “At the start of the pandemic we made a conscious decision to work with and support our airlines, as we recognized they were facing the same challenges as we were. Investing in these relationships in the hard times has facilitated what we believe will be a strong bounce-back starting with a really exciting summer schedule from London City. 2021 was certainly tough for everyone. However, despite predictions from some to the contrary, we did see the emergence of positive business travel trends, which we believe will continue in 2022 and will be so critical for the economic recovery of London and the UK more widely.
“While we are not out the woods yet, the signs from governments in the UK and across Europe are that we are learning to live with Covid. I am optimistic that the restrictions that remain today, particularly for vaccinated passengers, will be eased and, in time, removed altogether so we can return to the simple and affordable ways of flying before the pandemic. London City will be a huge asset for London in the years ahead and we look forward to welcoming more passengers and building relationships with new airlines so we can connect the capital to more destinations and opportunities across the world.”