WEEKEND breaks in a host of European cities will be opened up to south Essex residents after Southend Airport unveiled 12 new routes.

The airport has struck a deal with Flybe - bringing the total number of routes offered to passengers to 30.

Tickets to new destinations including Venice, Prague, Milan, Budapest and Vienna have gone on sale today.

Glyn Jones, chief executive of Stobart Aviation, which owns and operates Southend Airport, said: “Our recently completed customer research shows that there is a real desire for more city breaks to cater for the emerging ‘weekender’ trend.

“With Southend Airport just 45 mins by train from the east London hub at Stratford, it means you could be in our departure lounge in under an hour. We make escaping London for the weekend as quick and easy as it can be.”

Other destinations launched include Dubrovnik and Zadara, in Croatia, Lyon and Cologne.

Andrew Tinker, chief executive officer of the Stobart Group, said: “The announcement of new routes from London Southend Airport today further builds on the strategic growth platform we have created in Stobart Group’s Aviation division. “It is the next stage of our strategy to build new passenger routes and further the development of our regional franchise with Flybe, and proves that our Aviation division has the capacity and ability to capitalise on the demand for new routes and airport alternatives in London.”

Ann Holland, councillor responsible for culture, tourism and the economy, welcomed the announcement.

She said: “It’s great news. I think people really like the idea of spending weekends in a city. Having a week away anywhere is nice but great in places like Vienna and Milan.

“I think it would be nice to have a few more destinations in the UK. Edinburgh was alway quite popular when that was running. People who went there said it was very good. People like to go up north but if it is not cost efficient the airport will concentrate on EU breaks.”

Ms Holland said the extra routes will boost the borough’s economy.

She added: “It is good news for the town. It will bring more people to the airport. I look forward to them starting.

“It will definitely bring in more investment, particularly when we also have the new business park at the airport.

“There will be more investment because of the the feel good factor.

“I used the airport to go to Amsterdam and and it was so quick. It was unbelievable. There is no doubt we are very lucky.”

John Lamb, leader of Southend Council, added: “It’s absolutely brilliant news. It will really open up Europe from Southend. It will attract so many more travellers and hopefully the other way, with people coming into Southend and wanting to stay.

“It will be a boost to our economy as well. The airport will no doubt need more staff. With all the extra people, they will need more taxis. It opens up many avenues.”

“These are exciting times for Southend . We are steaming forward. With the business park and other things starting to happen, we will attract far more people and see new business opportunities.”