London’s City Airport (LCY) is an exception in international air traffic. Due to its tiny size, location in a sidebank of the River Thames and short runway, it allows for a unique experience when going there. Aside from all the things that makes an AVGeek’s heart beat faster, it is also extremely convenient for short visits to the city. This is a review of two trips I’ve made to the airport in September & October 2019, each departing from Dusseldorf.
Arriving in London City
Due to its short, 1,500 meter runway and a group of tall buildings west of it, only “multi-engine, fixed-wing aircraft with special aircraft and aircrew certification to fly 5.5° approaches” are allowed to land there. To make it more simple: airplanes approach LCY in a steeper angle and are pretty fast during touchdown. Therefore, only smaller jets and turboprops operate in and out of the airport. The eastbound approach to Runway 09 grants a marvelous view of downtown London.
Special approach aside, after touchdown things get really interesting: For starters, taxi times at London City airport are maximum ten minutes long due to its small size and simple layout. Because ground facilities offer neither buses nor jet bridges, you’ll simply deplane via stairs and have a short stroll across the apron. With that, another point of potential delay is eliminated. You’ll enter the ground level of the two story terminal building and proceed towards immigration through a long, small corridor. Since Great Britain is not part of the Schengen agreement, this is obligatory for most visitors.
Getting Downtown in Less Than 45 Minutes After Touchdown
After clearing customs, you can get pretty quickly to the Dockland Light Rail (DLR) station, which is directly connected to the terminal building. Trains to downtown London leave here every ten minutes at a cost of £ 4.90 oneway (£3.20 with an Oyster Card). After travelling another twenty minutes, you’ll arrive at Bank station in the heart on London’s financial district and well connected to other public transport. Further, St.Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Hill are comfortably within walking disctance.
The opportunity to reach downtown London in 45 minutes after touchdown and at an additional cost of £4.90 is unique to City airport. It is downright impossible from any other London airport.
Departing from London City
Getting to the airport is as easy as leaving it. The small departure hall is located on the ground level. After crossing it completely (which takes about ninety seconds) you’ll get to the upper level, where security is located. I went through it during the evening departure rush hour, but passed in less than 15 minutes. The small terminal tends to get very crowded during peak hours. If you want to grab a bite to eat before departure, calculate some extra time to access one of the restaurants in the departure area. In my case, all seats were taken and people started queuing up.
Flights are not called out terminal wide, so make sure to be near your boarding gate ahead of time. Although it should take you ten minutes at max to locate it and get there. While its really cramped and crowded in the evening, the large windows and proximity to the aircraft gives you the chance to get some amazing views of the apron. Boarding is very similar to deplaning – you’ll take a short walk across the apron before boarding your plane.
Airfares to London City
Roundtrips to London City from all over Europe start around €100 and are usually well below €150. Given that you’ll receive board service (when travelling BA and some others) and the decreased traveltime and -costs to get to the city, these fare are absolutely competitive to €60 – €80 fares to either Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted. Here are some examples of what you can expect to pay on trips to or from LCY:
- Amsterdam at €101
- Dusseldorf at €108
- Edinburgh at €109
- Dublin at €112
- Rotterdam at €116
- Milan at €122
- Prague at €135
- Zurich at €136
- Mallorca at €143
- Berlin at €152
LCY is homebase to British Airways‘ subsidiary BA Cityflyer, which operates 24 Embraerjets in an all economy class layout to 22 year-round destinations. These aircraft feature a decent seat pitch with a 2-2 seat alignment. All seats can be converted to business class seating by blocking the aisle seat. Even the lowest Cityflyer fares include a cabin bag, breakfast (on flights prior to 10 am) or snacks (after 10 am) and complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I never expected so many Bloody Maries being ordered (by fellow passengers) on a sub-one-hour mid-day flight.
Services to London City are not limited to BA Cityflyer. Aer Lingus, Air Antwerp, Alitalia, Flybe, KLM, LOT – Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Luxair and SWISS serve the airport as well from their main hubs.