Airport Options Abound for London Olympics

 - February 2, 2012, 2:10 AM
Major airspace restrictions will be in place for the summer Olympic Games, to be held this summer in London.

One of the airports most conveniently placed for access to the northeast side of London, where the main Olympic venue is situated, is Stansted. Located right next to the venue, London City will be in high demand, and airports such as Southend, Luton and Biggin Hill also are likely to prove popular with business/private aircraft operators and owners.

Jason Hayward of flight support group Universal Weather & Aviation is the general manager for the company’s Stansted operation. He told AIN that meetings have been going on at Stansted about Olympic planning “for around two years,” organized by airport owner BAA.

Stansted is blessed with fairly abundant ramp areas for parking aircraft. Nonetheless, Universal has been advising operators on more cost-effective options for repositioning aircraft once passengers have been dropped off. Some of these airports are a couple of hundred miles away, while others–such as Duxford, just to the north of Stansted–are closer.

Hayward believes that the procedures being enhanced and developed for the Olympic period will work and allow for late changes due to delays. “The way slots work is that you don’t need to get a new one,” he stated, but this applies only where there is a genuine reason, such as a technical problem or weather.

Universal, which has its own FBO at Stansted, estimated originally that final demand would be at levels equivalent to 150 percent of ordinary levels, but it had already reached this level of booking as of December. “With eight months to go, it’s finger-in-the-air stuff,” he reflected, in terms of what the eventual traffic volumes for the Olympics might be. “But if people leave it to the last minute they may find it hard.”

However, Hayward also said that the UK authorities are trying to keep as much of a “business as usual” approach as possible–just scaled up for the additional volumes. While he said hotel vacancies could become scarce, he also observed that some companies are avoiding London meetings during the Olympic period.

Hayward also advised operators not familiar with the geography of the UK to check where the Olympic events to which they are taking passengers are being held. For example, it might be that an airport such as Farnborough or Southampton would be more convenient for going to an event such as sailing. “Not all the Games are at the main Games site. You need to choose the airport and then get slot and parking requests in as early as possible,” he advised.

“We are genuinely excited,” concluded Hayward. “We are about to rebuild our facility, which will be ready by the spring. [The Olympics] will be a good way to launch it–with our best ever summer.”