London City Airport is considering an application to raise limits on flights and passenger numbers, its boss has revealed.
Chief executive Robert Sinclair believes the airport will approach existing caps on its operations in the next three to four years.
A campaign group pledged to “fight tooth and nail” against any bid to ease the restrictions.
In an interview with the Press Association, Mr Sinclair declared that London City can play an increasingly vital role in providing vital runway capacity in the South East as Heathrow’s expansion is not due to be completed until 2026 at the earliest.
“In the fullness of the next year or two we will be reflecting on the future and life beyond our current planning caps,” Mr Sinclair said.
“We will be considering the potential options, which could include raising the caps.”
London City is currently limited to 6.5 million passengers and 111,000 flights per year.
Annual passenger numbers have grown by 50% since 2012 and are expected to exceed five million next year. Annual air traffic movements currently stand at around 80,000.
Any bid to increase operational caps would be made to Newham Council.
Some people living nearby already protest against the noise and air pollution linked to the airport’s existing operations.
John Stewart, chairman of campaign group Hacan East, said: “Local residents would fight tooth and nail any attempt by London City to raise its limits on flights and passengers.
“Many of them feel their lives are already blighted by planes from the airport.
“The preservation of the current cap is the reddest of red lines for residents and I suspect for many local authorities.”
Heathrow Airport has faced fierce opposition from anti-expansion campaigners for many years as it seeks permission to build a third runway. It won a parliamentary vote on the plans last month.
A £480 million programme is already under way at London City to enhance its facilities.
This will include eight new aircraft stands, the UK’s first digital air traffic control tower, a full length parallel taxiway and extending the terminal building.
British Airways has moved its Paris Orly flights from Heathrow to London City and Mr Sinclair predicted airlines will increasingly transfer their short-haul operations away from the west London hub.
This is because they want to use the valuable slots for long-haul services in order to maximise revenue.
Mr Sinclair, who left his role as the boss of Bristol Airport to join London City in October last year, was “very encouraged” by a recent Government document calling for the best use to be made of existing runway capacity.
“That document signalled the Government’s policy, that it’s not all about Heathrow,” he said.
“There’s an understanding that the Heathrow third runway is going to take six or seven years, or maybe more.”
London City, which opened in 1987, traditionally focused on point to point business passengers due to being the nearest airport to Canary Wharf and the City of London.
But Mr Sinclair wants to “reposition” the airport to further embrace leisure travellers, with new routes such as Porto, Reykjavik and Prague, and provide a feed for hub airports such as Amsterdam, Lisbon and Warsaw.
The launch or increased frequency of these routes is “not happening by accident”, he said.
“This is part of a very methodical strategy we are pursuing to effectively re-position City.”