London City Airport Worth More as a Building Site, Study Argues

London City Airport, the closest terminal to the capital’s financial district, contributes little to the U.K. economy and should be closed, according to a report today from the New Economics Foundation.

The airport added about 110 million pounds ($184 million) to the U.K. economy last year, compared with the 513 million pounds brought in by the ExCel exhibition and conference center across the River Thames, according to the study. The facility’s passengers, who account for about 2.4 percent of London airport traffic, could easily be absorbed by other terminals, they said.

Located 6 miles from London’s main financial district on a former dockside, London City is favored by business travelers on short-haul trips. The average income of its passengers is 92,000 pounds, in an area of the capital where 40 percent of people earn less than 20,000 pounds, NEF said, citing data from a planning statement on the local Newham council website.

“We must seriously question the logic of locating an airport on precious inner-city land,” NEF economist Helen Kersley, the report’s lead author, said in a statement. “London City Airport places a significant environmental and social burden on neighboring communities.”

London City handled 73,713 flights and 3.4 million people in 2013, ranking as Britain’s 15th largest airport. While the facility puts its annual economic contribution at 750 million pounds, the bulk comes from spending by inbound passengers and would stay in the U.K. if flights went elsewhere, the NEF said, refering to figures in the hub’s Transforming East London study.

Air France Sale

Opened in 1987 and majority owned by Global Infrastructure Partners, London City’s biggest operator is Air France-KLM Group’s unprofitable CityJet Ltd. arm, which the carrier is seeking to sell to turnaround specialist Intro Aviation GmbH.

Today’s report is not the first to call for the closing of a London airport. In July, Mayor Boris Johnson said the government could buy Heathrow, Europe’s busiest hub, for 15 billion pounds and use the 1,220-hectare (3,000 acre) site to build 100,000 homes, creating an entirely new borough that would help ease a national housing shortage.

The NEF is an unaffiliated, donation-funded think-tank that seeks to promote social, economic and environmental change, according to its website.

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