British Airways is to put into use aeroplanes that usually sit idle at London City Airport at the weekends – launching holiday services from neighbouring Stansted.
For the first time, BA’s CityFlyer brand will use the airport to the north of the capital with flights to Faro, Malaga, Palma and Ibiza from May 28. Flights will start from £98 return.
The 98-seat Embraer 190s are normally parked up in the Royal Docks because the airport has a restriction on weekend flying to give its Newham neighbours a rest.
Luke Hayhoe, BA CityFlyer general manager, said: “This is fantastic opportunity for us to expand our London network and to give our customers even more choice of where to fly."
Stansted managing director Andrew Harrison said: “These new services to Faro, Malaga, Palma and Ibiza are another positive step and very strong additions to our extensive route network that now covers over 170 destinations.”
The move comes just days after BA expressed its concerns over the sale of London City Airport, signalling that it could pull out the Docklands hub altogether if charges are pushed up by the new owners.
LCY’s current owners, Global Investment Partners, put the airport in the shop window last year with a price tag of £2billion. Both BA and CityJet have said that the only way to recoup such a vast outlay would be to saddle airlines with the costs.
International Airlines Group, owner of BA, said: “Any potential new owner for London City should be left in no doubt that British Airways can move flights elsewhere if it ramps up airport charges to fund its investment. BA’s customers will not swallow increased fares to fund unrealistic returns for a monopoly airport supplier.”
LCY declined to comment on IAG’s concerns which first featured in the Financial Times but industry analysts suggest it would be unlikely BA would pull out of an airport in which it was so heavily invested.
Meanwhile, the airport is preparing for a planning appeal over its £200million development plan which would see the terminal extended and seven new stands for aircraft introduced. The proposals included an increase in the number of take-offs and landings to 111,000 a year.
The airport handled 4.3million passengers last year, more than double the 2005 figure.
Airlines' market share at LCY
Although approved by Newham Council, the decision was rejected by Mayor Boris Johnson as part of his mission to build an airport in the Thames estuary. With a new incumbent in City Hall, the blockage might be removed.
Labour’s Sadiq Khan, in particular, has said he was willing to revisit the decision although a win for the Green Party would see a concerted push to close the airport down altogether. Green candidate Sian Berry says the Crossrail link to Heathrow renders LCY redundant.
Both Stansted and Southend airports have made moves to target the lucrative corporate market.
Stansted has heard from Sir Peter Hendy, the Network Rail chairman, that improving the track between the airport and the capital was likely to be a priority in the next phase of rail upgrades from 2019.
And Southend put on a “time trial” to show that commuters could go from Canary Wharf to an airline seat in less than an hour. The hour comprised 55-minute driving and a claimed five minute transit from airport door to private jet.
The airport’s head of business aviation Hannah Lo Bao said: “This has been a great bit of fun, but it also makes a serious point as it banishes the misconception that London Southend is a long way out of the City – this proves once and for all we absolutely are not.”