Magazine article The Spectator

Notes on… London City Airport

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes on… London City Airport

Article excerpt

The late Frank Johnson — former editor of The Spectator — had a thing about London City Airport. ‘I never want to fly from anywhere else,’ he would say, often after returning from Germany, a country he loved, not least because of its Wagner connections. He was right, of course. Even today, more than 30 years since its official opening, flying out of City is a completely different experience from any other airport in the UK.

Size matters, of course. It’s merely the 14th busiest airport in the UK, just ahead of Leeds Bradford and below East Midlands. It only has one 1,500-metre runway and the terminal has a distinctly pop-up feel to it. But when it comes to getting there it must be near the top of the pile, especially if you ride the Docklands Light Railway, which snakes its way past Canary Wharf and through Docklands on an elevated track not dissimilar to New York’s Number 7 subway train which does much the same thing in Sunnyside, Queens.

On arrival at the terminal, the check-in desks are just inside the sliding doors. There are BA flights to Dusseldorf and Rotterdam; TAP to Porto; Flybe to Jersey, all interesting destinations, none of which attract the hordes. Turn round from check-in and an escalator awaits to bring you to security, where there’s seldom a queue. ‘Should I remove my belt?’ I asked a few weeks ago before leaving for Portugal. ‘Only if your trousers fall down, darlin’,’ said a buxom security official.

Most airports have become essentially shopping malls, from where planes land and take off. …

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