EASYJET’S UK director originally demanded to know “why would we want to do that?” when he was told about plans to start flights from Southend Airport.
Speaking after the budget airline’s half-year results showed a pre-tax loss of £112million, Paul Simmons revealed he was initially dumbfounded when his team revealed proposals to move three planes to south Essex.
EasyJet launched flights from Southend to nine overseas destinations last month and plans to add an extra two routes by next February.
Mr Simmons said he had been won over by the airport’s charms after learning about the efforts of its new owner, Stobart Group, to improve efficiency and comfort for passengers.
He said: “In Southend, you have a great little airport that is doing exactly what it was intended to do.
“My first reaction when I was told about going to Southend was: ‘Why would we want to do that?’ “I can see why now. I can see we are opening up a whole new region.”
Despite its losses between October and March, Mr Simmons said he was happy with easyJet’s performance.
The £112million figure was a £41million improvement on the same period a year earlier, despite an £87million jump in fuel costs.
Moreover, most airlines report a loss during the first half of the year, as the bulk of their profit is made during the busy summer season, and they make a profit overall.
For example, during the year from October 2010 to September 2011, easyJet made an overall pre-tax profit of £248million.
Mr Simmons said he expected Southend to perform strongly once the summer tourists starting going to places like Malaga, Ibiza and Faro.
He said: “Southend has a catchment area that includes most of south Essex and east London, but it can also draw passengers from other airports, such as City.
“We are very pleased with how it has operated so far and are confident it will continue to perform well.”