Some interesting things to note here:
- 800,000 passengers = 150 airport jobs
- EasyJet chose Southend in preference to Manston
- Stobart Group have invested £60m of their own money in the airport
London to get its sixth international airport in Southend – just in time for the Olympics
The budget airline easyJet unveiled ambitious plans yesterday to transform Southend-on-Sea airport into a rival for Gatwick and Stansted. It means London will be served by a sixth international airport in time for the 2012 Olympics.
EasyJet will carry around 800,000 passengers in the first 12 months at its new Southend base, three miles from the seafront of the Essex resort. This is set to rise to two million a year by 2020, making London Southend Airport almost as big as the capital’s City Airport. Currently private jets and charter flights take off from the airfield – although there are a few commercial flights to Ireland.
Under a ten-year partnership with the airport’s owners, Stobart Group, easyJet is to start flights at Southend from April next year. A multi-million-pound terminal is due to open at the airport this autumn. Airport bosses said passengers would never wait more than four minutes to clear security, and trains from a new station nearby would get them to central London in an hour. “It really is a case of ‘the only way is Essex’,” said easyJet, referring to the reality-TV programme about the county.
But some residents are not amused and are taking legal action against plans to extend the runway. Denis Walker, of the Stop Airport Extension Now group, said:
‘There are 20,000 houses under the flight path, and the noise is a big issue for residents, many of whom live very close to the runway.’
The Southend expansion will create about 300 jobs, half with the airline and half at the airport. It will serve a range of destinations in Europe, including Barcelona and Ibiza. Catherine Lynn, easyJet’s customer and revenue director, said:
‘In summer 2012 we’re expecting to see huge demand from passengers right around Europe to come to London. We expect easyJet to fly more people into London next summer than any other airline, and Southend will be the closest large airport to the Olympics. We’re going to maintain our regular services — this is an opportunity to increase our capacity.’
Three new routes have already been confirmed — Barcelona, Faro and Ibiza — but other destinations expected to be served from Southend include Madrid, Milan, Amsterdam, Berlin, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast. Flights from Southend will go to Barcelona, Faro and Ibiza initially.
The airline says it expects to attract many holidaymakers heading to the Spanish resorts but also those wanting to go on city breaks and business travellers. Three Airbus A319 jets will be based at Southend. It says flights will be 20 minutes shorter than from the other big London airports because Southend is clear of the air traffic congestion over much of London. Managing director Alastair Welch said:
‘Our size means no passenger will ever queue for more than four minutes for security, and as we’ve designed the airport only for short-haul travel, with 10 aircraft stands, there won’t be long distances to travel through the terminal.’
The airport will be served by a new railway station with eight trains an hour making the 52-minute journey to Liverpool Street. The airport is owned by the Stobart Group, the trucking firm, which paid £21m for it in 2008. It has invested £60m on a new control tower, a runway extension, a new terminal building due to be finished this autumn and the railway station. A new hotel is due to open next year.
The regeneration will create about 300 new jobs, half with the airline and half at the airport. Stobart is promising that passengers carrying hand luggage only will get from plane to train in 15 minutes, and Ms Lynn added:
‘The journey time into the city centre will be really competitive. On an inbound basis we’re expecting a very healthy proportion of business travellers.’
But angry residents have launched a legal action against plans to extend the runway. Denis Walker of the Stop Airport Extension Now group said:
‘Transport is a big issue as our roads are already heavily congested. There is a train station being built but I think the majority of people won’t want to have to take their cases on the train. 20,000 houses are under the flight path, and the noise is a big issue for residents, many of whom live very close to the runway.’
The group, which has more than 300 members, claims 60% of residents oppose the plans to expand the airport, and also hit out at the ‘extremely small’ number of jobs the plan will create.
Southend was Britain’s third biggest airport half a century ago and served as the initial base for Sir Freddy Laker’s pioneering cut-price New York service. However, it fell into rapid decline with the rise of Gatwick and Stansted and now has only a handful of flights a week to Jersey and to Galway and Waterford in Ireland. It is close to the mid-Thames estuary site suggested as an alternative to Heathrow by Boris Johnson.
Other locals welcomed the decision but raised concerns about extra traffic. Andy Innell, 50, owner of the Pier West café, said: ‘It’s wonderful news. It will bring more money to businesses in the town.
‘I’m sure some people who objected to the expansion will not be happy but they don’t want an airport there in the first place. Personally I think it’s fantastic news. I’m sure some of the people using the airport will come into town and spend their money. I’m very pleased.’
Daily Mail 17th Jun 2011