“Speed and convenience are in our DNA.” Robert Sinclair, London City Airport CEO 

Robert Sinclair LCY

London City Airport (LCY) has a reputation for being a ‘boutique airport’. Indeed, its location, right next to the Canary Wharf business district, and the constraints dictated by its relatively short runway and other operational restrictions, make its value proposition rather unique in the highly competitive London airport market. 

As mid-size aircraft such as the A320 and the B737, workhorses of the airline industry, cannot land there, London City had traditionally specialized in serving regional and short-haul niche operators with a clear focus on business traffic. The airport also serves an increasing number of leisure destinations. 

Passenger traffic at LCY had been steadily increasing during the decade before the COVID-19 pandemic, growing from around 2.8 million passengers in 2009 to more than 5.1 million in 2019. During this period, LCY even offered a transatlantic route to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), operated by British Airways on a specially configured all-business class A319 aircraft. However, this all stopped abruptly in 2020 when the global travel industry was grounded due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  

But now that passenger flows are finally bouncing back, spearheaded by leisure traffic, AeroTime has spoken to the man who has been at the helm of London City Airport since 2017, CEO Robert Sinclair.  

Speaking with AeroTime’s Richard Stephenson, Sinclair provided an overview of London City Airport’s current situation and future perspectives. Sinclair also shared the key strengths that make LCY such a unique airport and explained how its operator is investing in areas of the passenger experience that will help consolidate it as a leader in excellence. 

Who is Robert Sinclair? 

Despite being a long-time aviation enthusiast and a pilot since the age of 16, it was a career in law, accounting and finance that brought Robert Sinclair to work in the airport industry. 

Following a stint of several years as chief financial officer (CFO) at Auckland Airport (AKL), the largest international airport in his native country of New Zealand, Sinclair moved with his family to the United Kingdom in 2018 to take on the role of chief executive officer (CEO) at Bristol Airport (BRS).  

In 2017, after nearly a decade in southwest England, Sinclair was offered the role of CEO at London City Airport. In this position he has not only navigated the impact and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also continued to invest in strengthening the role of LCY as an alternative gateway to the British capital, one that is renowned for the level of convenience it offers users. 


As elsewhere in the industry, the COVID-19 outbreak was a pivotal moment for the airport, which did not waste time during a period when the entire sector had been brought to a standstill. It was closed for three months, which allowed it to carry out some infrastructure work airside, a decision that proved its worth when the time came to ramp up capacity. 

While the airport is still reeling from the pandemic (for example, traffic in 2021 was still less than 20% of pre-pandemic levels), Sinclair was happy to report that demand has already started to bounce back.  

He claimed that he always believed in a strong comeback because of the essential role aviation plays in people’s lives. “At the peak of the pandemic there were lots of naysayers saying travel had changed forever,” he said. “They have been proven wrong, and relatively quickly, I am pleased to say.”  

It is remarkable that while business traffic continues to be important for LCY and is expected to have fully recovered by the end of 2023, leisure traffic has been driving a sizeable part of the post-pandemic growth. 

Aware that larger competitors in the London area are streamlining their own processes, LCY has continued to invest in strengthening those elements of the passenger experience that set it apart from its competitors.  

What is unique about London City Airport?  

Referring to the airport’s unique selling points, Sinclair said: “Our core DNA is speed and convenience and customer service.” 

The goal, according to Sinclair, is to continue providing a stress-free, convenient and fast experience. “Speed and convenience are absolutely in our DNA, and this doesn’t happen by accident,” he noted.  

“We have an incredibly detailed, methodical approach to measuring everything we do, to ensure we deliver this proposition every day, all the time. And this means so much to our customers because they know they can rely on us, they know they are going to get that service,” he explained.  

Not only can passengers show up at LCY 30 minutes before their flight is due to depart, but the airport is also streamlining the security process.  

While speed and convenience are critical, Sinclair also highlighted that the airport was keen to invest in what he refers to as “next level of customer service”. This includes things like how travelers feel as they transit through the airport and their interaction with security. As a result, the airport has deployed new CT scans which will allow travelers to move through security without having to unpack their belongings.  

Similarly, the airport has also been investing in customer service resources. Another, less visible innovation expected to be a source of efficiency is the remotely operated digital control tower. The tower is not conducted on-site but from a remote location, with air traffic control (ATC) having access to a 360-degree high-definition view of everything that goes on around the airport.  

According to Sinclair, this is a pioneering project that highlights the airport’s commitment to innovation. “This is a world first!” he said. “We are the first airport in the world of our size to have a digitally controlled remote tower.”  

One field of innovation that is likely to attract most efforts – and budgets – in the coming years is sustainability. 

Sinclair believes LCY is ideally placed to be a leader in sustainability and innovation. This is in great part due to the relatively smaller aircraft that the airport specializes in being more likely to incorporate some of the sustainability-enhancing technologies currently under development.  

“I want to make LCY the airport people choose because of its sustainability,” Sinclair said.  

Sinclair ended with a call to professionals from all backgrounds to consider a career in aviation.  

“Why is this industry so amazing? We make the world a smaller place,” he said. “We connect people and there is something fundamentally rewarding about that.” 

Watch the full interview here:

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