COVID Prompts London City To Halt Development Plans

London City Airport will halt progress on its development at the end of the year. The central London airport decided due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such items as an expansion of the terminal are less pressing, given the pandemic induced reduction in demand.

London City Airport, Development Plan, COVID-19
London City Airport will place the brakes on its development plan at the end of the year. Photo: London City Airport

London City Airport’s development program was approved by the Secretaries of State for Transport and Communities and Local Government in July 2016. Worth £500 million ($653 million), the program will see numerous improvements to the airport once complete. These include developments to both infrastructure and facilities, with many significant milestones already met.

Existing work completed

London City Airport today revealed that it would pause the development of the airport from the end of the year. This is a natural place to break the program as it will move between phases. However, the delayed halt to proceedings will allow the current stage to finish first.

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As such, by the end of 2020, several improvements to the airport’s airside area will be completed. This includes the addition of a taxiway opening up the runway’s capabilities by reducing each aircraft’s usage of the surface. Currently, planes landing or departing City Airport take up valuable runway time while backtracking to or from the terminal area.

London City Airport, Development Plan, COVID-19
The construction of a taxiway adjacent to the runway will be completed. Photo: London City Airport

Additionally, eight new aircraft stands are being built at the airport. These more extensive stands will facilitate the movement of slightly more substantial, but more fuel-efficient aircraft at the airport. Airbus’ A220, along with Embraer’s E2-190, have explicitly been identified by the airport to use these new stands.

Finally, by the end of next month, the airport’s new immigration area will open. This will see the central London airport introducing ten e-gates to speed up entry into the country upon their arrival.

Terminal expansion paused

The next phase of London City Airport’s development program would see work made to expand the current terminal to handle more passengers. However, additional capacity isn’t what is needed right now. Due to the current pandemic, passenger numbers are significantly down. Airlines and aviation bodies are currently targeting a 2024 return to pre-pandemic passenger numbers.

London City Airport, Development Plan, COVID-19
Passenger numbers are expected to remain lower for the coming years. Photo: London City Airport

Commenting on the situation, Robert Sinclair, the CEO of London City Airport said,

“For the time being, we have taken the decision to focus our attention on delivering the vital additional airfield infrastructure… Completing the terminal extension and new east pier very much remains part of our future, and, with the foundations for both in place, we stand ready to take those projects forward when demand returns.”

During the height of the pandemic, London City Airport was hit harder than most others. The central London airport was closed entirely to operations for several months. However, this allowed the airport to make good progress on its outstanding development goals, given the lack of disruption from air traffic.

Do you think pausing development is the right thing to do? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!