It seems that Stobart Group (owners of Southend Airport) are now starting to reap the benefits of their substantial investment in the airport. Unlike Infratil (owners of Manston Airport) they invested their own money, rather than seeking public subsidies.
While Infratil scrimped on monitoring equipment, and belatedly installed new radar only when co-funded by Vattenfall (the windfarm people), Stobart Group put their money where their mouth is and forked out for a new control tower, railway station, etc to the tune of £60m.
The upshot is that they have managed to snatch easyJet from Manston’s jaws, and this may be a tipping point for both airports. Southend is now attracting interest from a wider range of operators – these two appear to be “virtual operators” that act as a re-badging/marketing umbrella for a number of other operators.
Two new airlines could be on their way to Southend Airport, hot on the heels of easyJet. The Echo can reveal continental firms Join Airlines and ViaTriskel, which are yet to start operating, have ambitious plans to fly from Southend to a number of European destinations in France, Holland and Germany.
Starting this autumn, Dutch airline Join wants to travel from Southend to Manchester, Amsterdam, Cologne/Bonn in Germany, Caen in France and Gronningen in northern Holland, which all have connections further afield. Join will use two turbo-prop planes, with 50 and 76 seats, and one jet with 108 seats. It will lease planes and crew from fellow Dutch-based airline Denim Air. Join project director, Bernard Jacobs, said:
“We are considering London Southend Airport as an important hub for Join to develop. The market focus will be more on business-related regional traffic. We hope to be able to start first operations this autumn. The announcement of easyJet starting operations at Southend as well is good news for all of us. It helps very much in creating awareness of Southend Airport as an ideal alternative to London’s airports.”
The second airline to express an interest is ViaTriskel, based in central France. ViaTriskel will initially operate from Chateauroux in central France and Waterford, Ireland, before looking to move to Southend as its third base. A route map shows nine destinations from Southend to Amsterdam, Cologne, Alsace, Chateauroux, Caen, Devon and Cornwall, Waterford, Dublin and Liverpool. ViaTriskel plans to offer a twice-weekly service to most destinations from each of its bases and will use medium-sized turboprop planes, with room for 46 passengers.
Alastair Welch, the airport’s managing director, said more announcements of flights from Southend were due. He added:
“We talk to airlines and potential airline start-up organisations very often. Most of these conversations and enquiries bear no fruit and it would be wrong to speculate on any possible future routes. But I can say the announcement about easyJet won’t be the last announcement of new routes from the airport in the run-up to the Olympics.”
The three confirmed easyJet destinations are Ibiza, Barcelona and Faro. The other seven are expected to be Madrid, Milan, Amsterdam, Berlin, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast.
Echo News 21st Jun 2011