British Airways and Lufthansa have resumed flights from London City airport as pan-European business travel shows the first signs of picking up.
Alison FitzGerald, the chief operating officer at the airport, which is favoured by business travellers heading to big European financial centres, said there were “early signs” of a recovery.
“We’re seeing some early signs of good load factors, some early bookings,” she said. “Hopefully frequencies will also increase.”
British Airways and Lufthansa are resuming services to the financial centres of Zurich, Frankfurt and Rotterdam later this month.
The number of flights from London City, which is handily situated for access to the City of London and Canary Wharf financial districts, will increase by 70% in September to about 260 a week by the end of the month, according to data from Bloomberg NEF.
However, FitzGerald said the tentative signs of a resumption in business travel were a far cry from pre-pandemic levels, with traffic down 80% on 2019 levels.
London City airport focuses on short-haul flights because of its short runway and until now has relied on a limited recovery in leisure travel when lockdown restrictions were eased earlier this summer.
Fitzgerald said that while the frequency of business travel remains unclear in a post-pandemic world, more executives are now seeking face-to-face meetings with clients. She added that the introduction of flexible working will result in more travellers combining business and leisure trips.
However, FitzGerald also said demand was being held back by constantly changing UK travel rules, which is affecting airlines’ decisions to reopen some routes.
“It’s a cautious lift given where airlines are financially,” she said. “They need to make sure the demand is there.”
Lufthansa is to resume services to Frankfurt from 16 September, after restarting flights to Zurich last week. British Airways will resume flights to Rotterdam, home to Europe’s busiest seaport and conglomerates including Unilever and Shell. KLM, London City’s biggest carrier after BA, has already resumed flights to Amsterdam.