London City airport puts expansion on hold

London City airport is halting its expansion plans following a collapse in business travel by Square Mile bankers.

The Docklands airport will pause a £480m programme to boost passenger capacity once construction on eight new stands for aircraft and a taxiway parallel to the runway is finished at the end of the year.

It comes after the Covid pandemic sent demand for business travel plummeting. City is favoured by finance executives because of its proximity to central London and Canary Wharf, and has been particularly hard hit.

The airport shut down in March when coronavirus was at its most intense and did not reopen until June 21.

Passenger numbers are yet to recover. Bosses warned that improvements in aviation have been slower than expected, with demand still well below normal levels.

Matching the record 5.1m passengers who travelled through the airport last year will take longer than initially hoped, they said.

Once completed at the end of the year, the modifications currently being built will allow City to handle 45 take-off and landings an hour as well as modern aircraft such as the Airbus A220.

The airport has welcomed back four airlines since reopening, including BA City Flyer, with more expected to return over the autumn. 

Chief executive Robert Sinclair said he and the airport’s owners remain confident about its long- term prospects given its location in the heart of London. But he also called on the Government to help restore confidence in the aviation market.

The airport is owned by a consortium made up of North American investors Alberta Investment Management, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and OMERS Private Markets, as well as London-based Wren House Infrastructure Management.

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