LONDON City Airport is on the verge of moving into profit for the first time, according to its managing director, William Charnock.
Even though the Docklands airport has just lost its link with Berlin, Mr Charnock expects between 440,000 and 460,000 passengers to pass through this year, compared with 245,000 last year.
"Break-even is between 450,000 and 460,000," he said. "It is difficult to say we will make a profit this year, but I am confident we will next year."
Last month Conti-Flug, a German carrier, went out of business, but Mr Charnock says other airlines are planning to increase frequencies and fly to new destinations. "I think by 1998, maybe before, we will be at a million passengers."
Last month the construction firm Mowlem, London City's owner, announced that the airport made a loss of pounds 1.6m in the first half of the year, 33 per cent lower than the comparable 1993 loss. It is still determined to sell or reduce its 90 per cent shareholding in the airport as part of its policy of concentrating on core construction activities. Mowlem has spent about pounds 30m on the airport, while accumulated losses have drained a further pounds 15m.
London City, which opened in 1987 amid high hopes that it would be a godsend to City folk wanting to nip across the Channel, soon turned into the cathedral of the Docklands - a place to go for peace and quiet, but not to catch a flight. Built on the Albert Dock, it was surrounded by houses: noise restrictions and runway length meant that only a handful of aircraft, notably the De Havilland Dash Seven, could use it. Although the airport offered a 10 minute check-in and an uncommonly civilised atmosphere, aircraft range meant it could service only Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels.
Two airlines, Brymon and London City (linked to British Midland) used the airport, and passenger numbers grew to 233,000 in 1990. But it became clear that the 250-mile range of the Dash, in any case now out of production, was limiting the airport's usefulness. Its popularity was also dampened by appalling transport links. "It could take one-and-a-half hours by taxi from the Bank of England six miles away," Mr Charnock said.
The recession depressed business further: in 1991 only 171,000 people used the airport. British Midland pulled out that …