FORD will use Southend Airport for weekly flights to its factories in Germany and Romania.

The Echo can reveal the global car giant has signed a deal with airport bosses to revive its shuttle service for employees, with the first plane due to depart on Monday morning.

Ford used the airport for a similar service between 2006 and 2008, but was forced to seek alternatives after Flightline, the airline which operated the route, went into administration.

Alastair Welch, the airport’s managing director, said he was delighted to have Ford back.

Ford’s UK headquarters are based in Warley, near Brentwood.

However, its construction plants are spread all over Europe and the firm needs regular shuttle services to ferry workers and managers between its sites.

The flights from Southend will take employees to factories in Cologne, Germany, and Craiova, in Romania.

The plants build the firm’s trademark Fiesta cars, as well as the new B-Max. Flights will leave Southend on Monday mornings and return at the end of the week.

Ford will initially use British airline Jet2, which is known for its passenger flights from airports in northern England, to run the service.

German airline Germania is scheduled to take over the route in the summer.

The rolling nature of the contract means it is not clear how much it will be worth to the airport.

However, as charters, there will be no seats on the flights for paying passengers.

It is not known what aircraft will be used, but Flightline used an Avro RJ100 to run its shuttle service before the company ran into financial problems in November 2008.

The collapse forced Ford to arrange other deals with different airlines and airports, but the company is believed to have always favoured a return to Southend because of its proximity.