London City Airport elevates travel dining: SSP Group’s contract extension brings fusion flavours to departure lounge

SSP Group extends London City Airport contract, unveiling diverse new dining concepts in £12 million Departure Lounge upgrade for modern business travellers.

Leading global operator of travel location food and beverage outlets, SSP Group, has announced a significant seven-year contract extension at London City Airport.

This partnership renewal accompanies a £12 million transformation of the Departure Lounge, introducing a range of innovative gastronomic experiences tailored to meet the discerning tastes of contemporary business travellers.

At the heart of this development lies SSP Group’s pioneering concept, Hithes.

Making its debut within the airport, Hithes encapsulates the vibrant tapestry of London’s multicultural cuisine, skillfully curated into a menu that traverses the city’s diverse culinary realms.

From the ‘City Boys’ all-day breakfast to the fiery ‘Notting Hill’ jerk chicken and the aromatic ‘Best of Brick Lane’ chicken tikka masala, Hithes promises “a gastronomic odyssey across London’s iconic gastronomic hotspots”.

The establishment also proudly showcases an exceptional array of the capital’s finest beers, spirits and wines, inviting patrons to explore a world of unparalleled taste.

Reflecting the harmonious blend of metropolitan energy and timeless sophistication that defines London, Hithes seamlessly melds the charm of a traditional city pub with the contemporary allure of a London brasserie. The ambiance is elevated by glistening mirrors and an exquisite mural capturing the essence of London’s bustling food markets, meticulously crafted by the esteemed English artist, Edward Bawden.

Journeying through the gastronomic landscape of London, visitors are invited to experience Juniper & Co, an oasis of culinary excellence that seamlessly blends timeless British classics with exceptional specialities.

Embark on a culinary adventure with the decadent Juniper Burger, crowned with Sussex Charmer cheese fondue, or indulge in the exquisite ‘Foremans’ London cured smoked salmon and free-range poached eggs, nestled atop a delicate Paul Rhodes English muffin. The refined drinks menu spotlights locally-crafted gins, vintages and an array of artisanal beers.

Kari Daniels: some of the most exciting foods from across the capital

The centrepiece of the establishment is an elegant marble-finished bar, adorned with a contemporary brass gantry, offering a delightful focal point. Ensuring that all preferences are catered to, seating options span from regal high stools to plush armchairs, guaranteeing a bespoke experience for every traveller.

For health-conscious voyagers seeking nourishing alternatives, the forthcoming summer of 2023 heralds the arrival of Soul & Grain, a haven of freshness nestled on the landside.

This ‘fresh-to-go’ haven pledges a delectable assortment of vegetarian, vegan, and indulgent delights, accompanied by the renowned offerings of London City’s very own Extract Coffee Roasters.

Embracing SSP Group’s commitment to sustainability, Soul & Grain is steadfast in its use of locally-sourced ingredients and eco-friendly packaging, exemplifying the brand’s dedication to ethical practices.

Kari Daniels, CEO SSP UK & Ireland said;

SSP has a long-standing relationship with London City Airport, spanning 20 years.

We’re delighted to be bringing new concepts to London City passengers and have worked in close partnership with the airport to deliver a truly local, London experience.

These concepts will give guests an opportunity to sample some of the most exciting foods from across the capital.

London City Airport Chief Executive Officer, Robert Sinclair, said:

This new investment in food & beverage outlets at London City Airport by SSP will be welcomed by our passengers and we can’t wait for our passengers to experience the new and improved food offerings at the airport, especially the London-focused food and drink brands.

As London City Airport undergoes this dynamic metamorphosis, SSP Group is aiming to confirm its dedication to elevating the travel experience, presenting a medley of culinary delights that capture the spirit of London’s culinary diversity.

This extension and the grand unveiling of these innovative concepts are set to redefine the landscape of London’s international business travel, ensuring that each voyage is punctuated by unforgettable gastronomic encounters.

London City Airport announces major Departure Lounge upgrade

London City Airport has unveiled a major investment in refurbishing its departures area which the airport claims will enhance the customer experience for passengers and celebrate London businesses and brands.

Investment of £12m

30% more seating

Two new dining experiences

Newly-expanded duty free and retail space

Phased transition set for completion by Summer 2023

This news comes as the airport reaches 2.17 million passengers to date in 2022.

The airport is embarking on a £12m upgrade along with SSP, Lagardère Travel Retail and WHSmith, which will see more seating, two new stylish dining experiences, duty free expansion, new retail space, more washrooms and a brand-new look and feel throughout the departure lounge.  

The refurbishment, which is set to be completed by Summer 2023, will be carried out in phases with new food & beverage and retail units opening before old ones close, which London City Airport says will create a seamless transition for passengers using the airport.

It’s London: Lagardère Travel Retail will launch a tailored Aelia Duty Free Store including an ‘It’s London’ boutique.

The upgrade will increase seating by 30% (950 in total), with the creation of a new area in front of a brand new 200m² flagship WHSmith store in Autumn 2022, which will also boast an expanded and distinctively London product range, and one-stop-shop solution with books, magazines, health & beauty products, souvenirs, digital accessories, plus food and drink options.

The airport’s “City Bar & Grill” will be replaced by the new “Juniper” restaurant in Spring 2023, which will provide passengers with a greater level of service from a new bar area and full-service kitchen, plus an overall increase of 80 covers. In addition, the airport’s “Cabin Bar” will be replaced with a new SSP restaurant brand offering a new menu, greater levels of service and an overall increase of 20 covers.

The refurbishment will also see 98% of waste produced by construction be diverted from landfill and recycled. London City Airport’s partners will also support the airport’s ambitions to eliminate all single use plastics, to become a zero-waste airport and to be a London Living Wage Zone.

London City Airport Chief Executive Officer, Robert Sinclair, said: 

Whilst Covid has postponed our plans to build an entirely new terminal building, it has not diminished our ambition to invest in providing a London centric experience we know passengers want and have been waiting for.Our recovery in 2022 has been strong, and we and our partners, want to be ready to deliver an even better service in 2023 for even more passengers.

The airport, Lagardère Travel Retail, SSP and WHSmith are also committed to championing ‘Brand London’ and amazing products from across our capital. It’s especially pleasing that they also share many of the ambitions outlined in our Sustainability Roadmap.

Richard Lewis, CEO of SSP UK & Ireland said:

We are very excited to continue partnering with London City Airport and to be launching some of our newest concepts that our customers love. Soul & Grain has been created this year in response to our customers’ demand for fresh, balanced options available on the go and we’re very proud to propose a premium, nutritionally balanced menu alongside fantastic artisan coffee.

Spencer Sheen, Business Development Director, WHSmith Travel, said: 

We are delighted to be bolstering our partnership with London City Airport with the delivery of a brand new WHSmith store as part of the airport’s refurbishment investment. The store will provide customers with all the essentials for their journey and will include a tailored range of products offering a real sense of place in London for customers travelling through the airport. The opening of our new WHSmith store follows the launch of our new store from our world-leading technology retailer, InMotion, in the terminal earlier this year, which has received great feedback from customers.

Marion Engelhard, MD of Lagardère Travel Retail UK & Ireland said:

We are thrilled to be partnering with London City to bring our flagship Aelia Duty Free store as part of this terminal upgrade. This store will express a sense of London like no other through its thoughtful design and our distinct focus on local products and suppliers that brings the best of London to the airport.

London City Airport predicts strong passenger recovery in 2022

London City Airport expects pent up passenger demand to fuel a surge in growth in 2022, with the introduction of new routes and the return of top-selling destinations, resulting in more than three quarters of 2019 routes operating at the airport this year.

The prediction follows the announcement of a busy summer schedule for British Airways, the airport’s biggest customer, and the easing of Covid restrictions, which is helping to fuel a return to business and leisure travel.

Flights to Milan, one of the airport’s top performing routes, and which alone carried 275,000 passengers from the centre of London to the centre of Milan in 2019, will be reinstated this year.

Barcelona will return to the London City network for the first time in almost a decade, while new routes such as Thessaloniki join established summer favourites like Split, Mykonos and Faro.

The upturn in confidence at the airport reflects the easing of travel restrictions and the proactive role London City Airport has played to work with and support its airline partners as the industry looks to bounce back from the worst of the pandemic.

Business traffic will be further strengthened in 2022 with British Airways moving the majority of its Luxembourg traffic to London City Airport, to complement the five daily flights soon to be offered by Luxair.

The impact of Covid-19 can be seen in the airport’s 2021 results. 714,000 passengers used London City, down 21% on 2020 and 86% on 2019. However, in the first six months of the year, when extensive global travel restrictions were in place, the airport handled only 75,184 passengers. In the last six months, as restrictions were eased, 638,785 passengers used the airport and very strong month on month growth was achieved.

Business travel returned strongly on all domestic routes in 2021, with Edinburgh the best performer. Internationally, Amsterdam was the airport’s busiest route, with KLM growing to four rotations per day in the autumn, with high passenger load factors. Other key business routes have included Zurich and Geneva, operated by SWISS and Frankfurt, operated by Lufthansa.

In October and November last year, business travel accounted for over 46% of all London City Airport journeys, which was the total year average in 2019. Between late September and late November, over 30,000 passengers used the airport each week, peaking at 37,000 in late October.

The announcement of additional testing and self-isolation requirements by Government to combat the Omicron variant saw passenger demand fall by 40% in December.

Commenting on the year ahead and on the 2021 passenger figures, airport CEO Robert Sinclair said:

At the start of the pandemic we made a conscious decision to work with and support our airlines, as we recognised they were facing the same challenges as we were. Investing in these relationships in the hard times has facilitated what we believe will be a strong bounce back starting with a really exciting summer schedule from London City.

2021 was certainly tough for everyone. However, despite predictions from some to the contrary, we did see the emergence of positive business travel trends, which we believe will continue in 2022 and will be so critical for the economic recovery of London and the UK more widely.

I am optimistic that the restrictions that remain today, particularly for vaccinated passengers, will be eased and in time, removed altogether so we can return to the simple and affordable ways of flying before the pandemic.

London City will be a huge asset for London in the years ahead and we look forward to welcoming more passengers and building relationships with new airlines so we can connect the capital to more destinations and opportunities across the world.