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Why we need a passenger-focussed Aviation Policy Framework

Liam McKay, Director of Public Affairs, London City Airport

London City Airport operates in a highly competitive environment, not just in London, but across the UK, Europe, as well as with other modes of transport. Airports cannot expect loyalty, it has to be earned.

Time is precious to passengers, and embracing smart solutions across our operations; whether surface access, security, aircraft turnaround times or digital air traffic control towers is key to the passenger experience. But, that’s just part of the picture.

Delay, congestion and inefficiency, as they are today, will continue to be our enemies. Which is why we need an Aviation Policy Framework that acknowledges this and enables airports to be flexible, dynamic businesses that are responsive to trends and provide first class customer service.

Cross-sector working

Airports do have great relationships with our regulators. But what we cannot do is be siloed. An airport experience starts for a passenger from the point of booking to arriving at their destination. And while this opens up some fantastic opportunities for collaboration with airline partners, hotel groups and taxi firms, to name just a few, it also means working smarter with existing partners. For example, at the UK border, airports are not allowed to repair E-gates. This causes unnecessary delay, frustration and buck passing. As we grow, and more passengers use our airports, the challenge will become greater. That’s why I want London City Airport to work hand-in-glove with UKBF so we can offer a border experience which is second to none.

Over the next decade airports will see a substantial increase in passenger numbers. At LCY, we expect to be serving 6.5m passengers by 2025. We, like other airports, will need the ability to maximise capacity. The infrastructure that is being added via the City Airport Development Programme (CADP) is vital, but physical infrastructure alone won’t meet demand.

Transformative tech innovation

Luckily for LCY innovation abounds in London, in particular in East London. We’ve directly benefitted from this as we’ve been able to work with small start-ups and provide them opportunities to improve our passenger proposition, whilst enhancing their profile in the global aviation industry.

Companies like Crowd Vision have allowed us to directly measure the time passengers spend travelling through the airport, while Avtura have enabled us to understand the entire aircraft turnaround process, identify risks and take recovery actions so that we remain on target. And, in an exciting new development, following collaboration with Innovate UK, we are working with another London tech organisation to use Artificial Intelligence in the aircraft stand allocation process.

Then, there is the partnership with NATS and Saab with the Digital Air Traffic Control Tower. Once operational in 2019, it will create a more resilient airport that will give controllers access to valuable real time information which can be supplemented with operational data including aircraft call signs. Controllers, via 14 HD cameras, will have a 360 degree panoramic view of the airfield and will be able to make well-informed, speedy decisions to help us become a more agile, efficient and safe business.

Modernising airspace

Lastly, while enhanced physical and digital infrastructure is essential, airports also need airspace to be modernised to accommodate ever growing demand. London City welcomes the government’s consultation, as it will be critical to avoiding delays, particularly in the South-East. Clearly safety must be the primary consideration but we would also urge the government to consider two things; firstly that all airports’ current airspace is maintained and that future growth is recognised and planned for. And secondly, that clear governance is attached to the airspace change process so that airports and, crucially our communities, can have clarity and certainty on how they can affect change as well as when decisions will be made.

As we all look forward to the next decade, our customers will expect a connected and dynamic airport experience. We are laying the groundworks for just that at London City, but we’ll also need an Aviation Policy Framework that supports this and provides us with the ability to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

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