SOUTHEND Airport is using mobile phone data to find out about our dream holiday destinations as it pushes forward with ambitious expansion plans.

The airport, owned by the Stobart Group, hopes to steal passengers away from its rivals by introducing new routes which are in demand.

Bosses will learn where residents across the region are visiting by signing up to receive data from Wi-fi tracking systems.

Glyn Jones, chief executive of the airport, said: “Southend Airport is currently carrying out an analytics project using ‘big data’ to understand the travel patterns of the population in our region.

“Whilst we believe this is a first for an airport, it is methodology used by other transport planners to understand traffic flows.

“The bundles of data, which are historic rather than real-time information, are totally anonymous with no individuals identified in terms of addresses or locations.”

Easyjet - which flies from Southend Airport - is one of millions of companies tracking activity thanks to smartphones.

Wi-fi constantly runs in the background even when we are not signed in to a particular network - enabling companies to pinpoint your location, similar to the way the internet remembers past activity.

Mr Jones added: “We are not in anyway tracking or monitoring residents or passengers.

“The project brings benefits as it will help the airport deliver more routes that will be relevant to our guests.

“It will therefore mean they can fly from their local airport rather than travel miles to other more crowded ones.”

It comes after ambitious plans to welcome 2.5million passengers through the terminal in 2018 - triple the amount of people who used the airport last year - were revealed.

Southend Airport now offers more than 30 flights with Easyjet, Flybe and now PowdAir.

Destinations include Amsterdam, Budapest and Barcelona. New routes to Malta and the Swiss Alps were recently announced.

Sophie Dekkers, UK market director for Easyjet, said: “We’re seeing more and more people using our services from Southend for both leisure and business trips and we’re keen to continue adding more varied routes to our schedule.”