London City Airport: A quarter of flights depart with fewer than half of seats filled, data suggests

The figures come as the airport looks to expand its operations, with an appeal due to go before the planning inspectorate later this year.
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Data published by the deputy leader of the Green Party suggests a quarter of London City Airport flights in the first half of this year departed with fewer than half of their seats filled.

The data comes as the airport looks to expand its operations, with an appeal due to go before the planning inspectorate later this year.

The figures, unveiled by Zack Polanski who, as well as being the Green deputy leader is also a London assembly member, indicate a total of 2,945 flights left the east London airport half-empty between January and June this year, equating to 24.2% of all departures over the period.

Sourced from passenger flights information gathered by the Civil Aviation Authority, the data for the first three months of the year was particularly damning, when 31% of flights appear to have filled less than half of their seats. This had dropped to 18% for the following three months.

A plane sat on the tarmac at London City Airport. Credit: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images.A plane sat on the tarmac at London City Airport. Credit: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images.
A plane sat on the tarmac at London City Airport. Credit: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images.

Mr Polanski said: “The audacity of London City Airport to push for expansion when they are not even close to filling their current flights is mystifying. In the middle of a climate emergency, the last thing we should be doing is expanding half empty airports.

“This new data shows exactly how London City’s business model welcomes – if not relies on – half empty flights as long as they run more frequently, with no regard for the carbon they spew into the atmosphere or the likelihood of economic failure.

“Whoever the final decision falls to – the council, the mayor, the government – must block this profiteering for the sake of Londoners and the environment.”

A London City Airport spokesperson said: “Planes to and from London City in the first six months of this year were on average 70% full, which is standard for our airlines.

“75% of planes departing from London City during this period were almost 80% full – higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“Our proposals seek to increase the current passenger limit to accommodate future growth over the next 10 years, without any increase in the number of permitted annual flights. 

“If approved, our proposals could create 4,500 additional jobs across London and an additional £702 million in Gross Value Added to London’s economy.”