EASYJET expects passenger numbers to soar to 2.5million next year at Southend Airport, it has revealed.

The airline announced yesterday it is to add a fourth aircraft to its Southend Airport base after seeing a 25 per cent bigger increase in passenger numbers than expected.

The airline will bring in an A320 aircraft from July 25 next year to cope with extra passengers to and from the airport next summer.

The company said it expects to fly more than half a million passengers from Southend next year - an increase of 130,000 passengers to and from the airport across 16 routes.

Easyjet’s newest route to Malta starts on October 29.

Sophie Dekkers, Easyjet’s director of the UK market, said “We are absolutely delighted to be celebrating further expansion at Southend Airport.

“The addition of another aircraft next summer will help us to deliver long-term, sustainable growth at the airport, providing passengers with a greater range of destinations, all with low fares and great service.”

Glyn Jones, chief executive officer of Stobart Aviation, owners of Southend Airport, added: “We’re thrilled that the UK’s largest airline has decided to invest in a fourth aircraft at Southend Airport.

“It’s proof of our strong partnership with Easyjet and demonstrates their continued confidence and commitment to providing an exemplary service for our passengers.”

Mr Jones added: “We currently serve more than one million passengers a year with more and more people realising that we are a better way to travel.

“Southend is by far the capital’s most highly ranked airport by Which? for customer care and service.”

The airline’s summer schedule for next year has been launched and sees 1,288 Easyjet flights to and from Southend between June 25 and September 2, 2018.