SOUTHEND Airport is celebrating a decade of improvements since the takeover by Stobart with the owners confident the next ten years will be even better.

The airport remains one of the UK’s fastest-growing regional airports and this year is expected to have seen more than 1.5 million passengers through its doors.

Chief Executive Officer Glyn Jones, of Stobart Aviation, spoke with the Echo to reflect how far the airport has come and given a taste of what’s to come.

Mr Jones said: “The prime reason for taking it on was what remains the main drive for the airport today - its London capacity.

“Way back when, in the 60s and 70s it was busy in terms of traffic but as other airports developed, the demand started getting satisfied elsewhere and so it declined and it became more of an airfield rather than an airport.”

Stobart Group acquired the airport in 2008, taking just 47,541 passengers, and the owners swiftly applied to increase the runway by 300m, as well as upgrade navigation and lighting. A new state-of-the-art air traffic control tower and mainline railway station were also opened in 2011.


Expansion - how the airport looks in 2018

This was also the same year easyJet signed a ten-year agreement to use Southend as a new hub to run scheduled flights to a range of European destinations.

Mr Jones added: “The first big breakthrough was signing easyJet because for an airport of our size to get a major airline to commit planes was a big deal so that was a great step in the right direction.”

In 2012, the runway extension became operational and the new passenger terminal building was opened which enabled the airport to handle a new generation of medium capacity, high-efficiency jets for short-haul scheduled flights.

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Southend Airport has been ranked “Best London airport” by Which? for the fifth year in a row and the company are committed to building on their success.

Among the company’s successes, Mr Jones considers securing easyJet and, earlier this year, Ryanair, as anchored airlines at the airport as among the highlights.


The past - an aerial view from 2008

He added: “Another one of the things I am really pleased with is the deal with the Restaurant Group (TRG) who are helping us improve our food and drink offerings for passengers.

“While we are topping the Which? surveys, food and drink facilities was one of our weaknesses so we’ve listened to passengers and taking steps to improve that.”

TRG has opened a Giraffe restaurant and a brasserie-style restaurant to join the airport’s champagne bar and Costa Coffee as just some of what is on offer.

Looking forward, Mr Jones said the company has ambitious plans to ensure the growth and success of the airport continues, including plans to extend the baggage areas resurfacing the runway so it is appropriate for slightly larger aircrafts in the future. They also hope to increase the number of routes, currently at 34, to 45 by next year.

He added: “We have invested about £160 million to date and we’re hoping to invest a further £40 million in the next few years.

“We want to optimise what we’ve got. The baggage area expansion will be done in two phases and should see the terminal building grow by about 75 per cent so it’s pretty big.

“We will have three Ryanair aircrafts coming next year to join easyJet and Flybe and we’re building a larger fire station to keep up with the larger aircraft.”

The company is hoping to welcome five million passengers a year by 2022 and Mr Jones says his next challenge is to improve the rail service to and from the airport.

He added: “We will work very closely with Greater Anglia and Network Rail to ensure there is a service that works for all our passengers.”