C Series scheduled debut at London City opens new network opportunities from the Docklands

The arrival of Bombardier CS100 C Series HB-JBA at London City on the evening of August 8, 2017 marked a key milestone for the airport serving the UK capital. The aircraft was operating its first scheduled passenger flight into the airport operating Swiss International Air Lines flight ‘LX466’ from Zurich and will replace the Avro RJ that has served the route for many years.

After Bombardier secured certification for the CS100 at London City in April this year, Swiss finalised the training requirements needed for its crews to complete the steep landing approach that service to London City requires earlier this summer. The type will now regularly serve the Zurich – London City market alongside the Embraer 190 and will also be used on the Geneva – London City route from next summer.

The C Series aircraft have been primarily acquired by Swiss to replace its Avro RJs, which were used to commence its scheduled services to and from London City precisely 25 years ago, but its larger CS300 variants is enabling it to also support mainline flying and will enable it to remove the Airbus A319 from its fleet.

The Avro RJ100 and its smaller version, the Avro RJ85, have formed the backbone of the Swiss European fleet since the company was founded in 2002. Its fleet has completed over 700,000 hours in the air. And made over half a million flights. The arrival of the C Series means that Swiss has now retired the final RJ100 from flight operations after over 15 years as part of its fleet with its remaining RJ85 flying to be transitioned to the C Series as additional aircraft arrive through 2018.

The Swiss flights to Zurich and later to Geneva are just a short hop compared to the range the Canadian-built C Series can offer out of London City and manufacturer Bombardier is pitching the aircraft for possible transatlantic flying from the airport. The aircraft has already performed a test flight from the airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy International hub in a 44-seat, all-business-class layout after certification trails at London City.

“The C Series is the only commercial aircraft that was specifically designed for operations at London City airport and we are very proud of its performance,” said Rob Dewar, vice president of the C Series aircraft programme at Bombardier Commercial Aircraft following this landmark flight.

There are already at least two airlines that have confirmed interest in using the C Series on longer-range routes from London City. These include business specialist PrivatAir and proposed start-up carrier Odyssey Airlines.

“There are many customers now – more than a handful – looking at the capability of the C Series for long-range routes, some of them transatlantic,” confirmed Mr Dewar in a recent interview. “From London City you could do many destinations in eastern North America.”

British Airways already operates transatlantic flights from London City to New York using Airbus A318 equipment, but these flights are forced to make a stop in Shannon, Republic of Ireland on the outbound leg. The airline has now cut its operations from a double daily weekday service to just a single rotation and has now disposed one of the two A318s that were acquired exclusively to serve this market.

Bombardier says the C Series could serve this market more efficiently by removing the need for the stop, while also enabling a larger payload to be transported across the Atlantic. It would also be able to serve other markets such as Boston, Toronto in North America, but also opens up the possibility of flights into Russia, the Middle East and northern and western Africa.

While Italian destinations dominated the largest indirect markets from and to London City in 2016, The Blue Swan Daily analysis shows it is actually Lagos in Nigeria that tops the list. Ghana’s capital Accra also makes the top ten list, while Dubai, another obvious candidate for a potential CSeries route, also makes the list. Beijing, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo are all long-haul markets with clear market flows to/from London City.

CHART – Largest unserved markets from London CitySource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG