London has not one or two, but an impressive six international airports. And London City Airport is the smallest of them all. But it does have some very unique features which make it actually one of the best airports for London. Intrigued? Well, let me tell you what to expect when flying out of London City Airport.
When travelling to and from London, you have a choice of six London airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Southend and City Airport. To be honest, with the exception of Heathrow and City, they aren’t actually within the boundaries of Greater London. But they do cater for London and are therefore classed as London airports.
Which airport you’ll go through when flying to and from London is often dictated by the airline you choose. Some airlines like British Airways will use several of the airports, others (Ryanair for example) only use one or two London airports.
My preferred airports are Heathrow and City Airport (although Stansted is actually the one closest to home, but I tend to avoid it like the plague). Whilst Heathrow is the biggest and busiest of the six London airports, City Airport is a rather different experience.
I must say, flying out of London City Airport is one of my favourites. With it being such a small airport, everything is just that little bit easier and faster. No need to walk for miles on end to get to the gates (the thing I loathe most about Stansted, along with the crowds). It all is rather compact and getting through the airport and onto your aircraft can be super quick. However, it being such a small airport can also have its disadvantages, but more on the pros and cons in a bit.
Best way to get to London City Airport
The easiest way to get to City Airport is by DLR. As part of the Transport for London network, the Docklands Light Railway connects City Airport directly with the City of London. So, if you are flying out of London City Airport, you can get there in under 30 minutes from Bank or Tower Gateway.
Being connected to the tube network is a big bonus and one only two of the six London airports benefit from (the other one being Heathrow). This not only makes is quick and convenient to get to London City Airport but also relatively cheap.
There are also London busses line 473 from Stratford and line 474 from Canning Town to get you to City Airport, plus the option of cabs / Uber etc obviously.
In the not-so-distant future, there will also be a Thames Clippers wharf nearby, allowing you to arrive by boat when flying from London City Airport. I mean, how cool is that?
Which airlines operate out of London City Airport?
City Airport is a small airport and has very few gates and one runway. Therefore, the number of airlines is rather limited. In fact, there are currently just seven airlines flying out of London City Airport:
British Airways operated the biggest number of flights to a range of destinations, mainly domestic and pan-European, but also a few connections to JFK.
KLM to Amsterdam only
Loganair to Dundee
LOT Polish Airlines to Vilnius
Lufthansa to Frankfurt
and Swiss Air to Geneva and Zurich.
With only one short runway, the size of aircraft flying out of London City Airport is limited to small to mid-range (the likes of Embraer, De Havilland). I have had flights out of City Airport where I literally had an aisle and window seat at the same time, as the aircraft was so small that it had a row of single seats one side and double seats the other.
In 2019 London City Airport had just over 5 million passengers. Compare that to the almost 81 million passengers Heathrow had in the same year and it gives you an idea of just how small City Airport actually is.
Are there shopping opportunities at London City Airport?
And is there a duty-free shop at London City Airport?
Good news. There is a duty-free shop at City Airport plus a small electrical shop, a luggage / handbag shop, and a small Boots. However, there are none of the designer goods shopping opportunities that you would get at Heathrow.
But to be honest, ever since City Airport opened in the 1980s, it main purpose was to serve business customers. And if you travel for business, you are often on a tight schedule. Spending hours shopping at airports might therefore not be very high on your priority list.
Can I get food at London City Airport?
No worries, although it is a small airport, you won’t have to starve. There are a couple of coffee shops (Pret both landside and airside, Café Nero airside, Costa Coffee landside) and smaller restaurants offering food and drink whilst you are waiting.
Does London City Airport have any airport lounges?
Unfortunately, no. With London City Airport being such a small airport, they just don’t have space for airport lounges. Which is a bummer, should your flight be delayed. However, to make up for that, flying out of London City Airport, you’ll often be served a snack and drink on your flight. BA City Flyer (the British Airways subsidiary operating out of City Airport) still does service on all City Airport flights, despite British Airways seizing catering on short-haul flights a couple of years ago.
What facilities are available at London City Airport?
In addition to the already mentioned food and shopping options, City Airports offers a small spa, where you could get your nails or eyebrows done whilst waiting for your flight or squeeze in a little massage.
There is also a kid’s area available, in case you are flying with the entire family.
What are the advantages of flying out of London City Airport?
It is a small and compact airport. Even if it is super busy, chances are you’ll make it through security in less than 15 minutes. If not busy, it might even be as little as five minutes from airport entrance to gate. I can’t think of many other airports where you are able to do that.
In spring 2023, London City Airport became the first UK airport to scrap the 100ml rule at security. Thanks to the newest type of luggage scanners, you no longer need to take out your electronics and fluids when approaching security. And you don’t have to stick to 100ml per container. Instead you can take up to 2 litres. But piece of advice here. Yes, you can take up to 2 litres, but it needs to be a see-through container. I carried a full water bottle with me recently, assuming this would be fine (as it is only half a litre). I ended up having to empty it at security, as it was a metal bottle and the scanners therefore couldn’t check content. So don’t make the same mistake I did.
The gates are arranged in one long row, so yes, if you are departing from the furthest gate (14 or 25), you might have to walk for five minutes, but no more than that. Once you do get to the gate, it is just a short walk down one flight of stairs, out of the building and straight into the aircraft. No bus transfer required.
It is great to sit at the gate and literally be next to your aircraft. You have a full view of the aircrafts from the windows and are up close and personal with them.
And with City Airport being located literally on the River Thames, you are in for some magnificent views when landing or flying out of London City Airport.
Any disadvantages of flying from London City Airport?
There are a few. I have already mentioned one big disadvantage of City Airport, which is the total lack of airport lounges.
They also don’t have any fast-track security, so even if you are flying business class (or are a BA gold or silver member) you will have to join the normal queue to get through security.
Whilst the location of City Airports provides pretty views, it can also cause big problems if the weather turns. Fog on the Thames will disrupt departures and landings severely. To the extent that City Airport might have to close completely, whilst other London airports are operating a normal service.
Been there done that unfortunately. A while back I got stranded in Paris for an extra night thanks to fog at City Airport.
What to do when you have wait time before flying from London City Airport?
You might have gathered from the above, that there isn’t much to pass the time at London City Airport. So, if you have several hours before your flight, you might want to consider venturing out rather than sitting at the airport for hours on end.
Just one stop on the DLR and you will get to the Thames Barrier. These flood barriers are quite pretty to look at (you might also see them from above when landing at City Airport) and there is a little park to walk and sit in.
Or make best use of the short DLR ride from City Airport to the City of London and explore London on a short three-hour walking tour.
Tell me, have you ever been to City Airport? What was your experience flying from London City Airport?