PASSENGERS have welcomed the launch of 14 new routes from Southend as Ryanair touched down in the town for the first time.

The low cost airline landed its first flight at Southend Airport yesterday after announcing in June last year they would establish a new base there.

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The airline has invested $300 million to keep three planes at the airport, as well as create 750 new on-site jobs.

The first passengers to use Ryanair’s new service, which will fly to eight different countries from the airport, landed from Dublin shortly before 10am yesterday.

The plane was greeted by a water arch, created by two fire engines spraying their hoses into the air and across the runway. When passengers came through the arrivals gate, they were joined by a flash mob of Irish, Spanish and Slovak dancers to celebrate the airline adding routes to Dublin, Alicante and Kosice amongst others.

Tony Bravy, 56, had flown from his home in Dublin to visit family in Southend.

He said: “It was a really nice flight, quick and easy, and I didn’t have to pay very much.

“I’m very glad Ryanair have brought these new flights here. I’ve flown all around Europe with other companies like Flybe, but now this flight route means it’s so much more convenient.

“There’s loads of choice, the timings are good, and I’m not losing a day in getting to and from the airports and getting the flight, and there’s so much more time I can spend with my family.”

Ryanair is set to deliver more than one million customers each year to the airport, with the aim of the airport expanding to see 2.5 million passengers pass through by the end of the year.

As well as Dublin, the new routes include Alicante, Barcelona Reus, Bilbao, Brest, Copenhagen, Corfu, Cluj, Faro, Kosice, Malaga, Milan Bergamo, Palma and Venice.

Passenger Karen Gillian, 60, said: “I didn’t expect to be greeted by lots of dancers. If only that was a regular thing at all airports!

“We decided to come to London via Southend to see what the new route is like. We have a train in five minutes, which is such a quick turnaround.

“It’s very small compared to any other airport in London, it doesn’t feel like it is part of the city, but we should get in fairly quickly if the train is on time.”

Following the welcome, speeches were given by Glyn Jones, CEO of Stobart Aviation which own sthe airport, and Chiara Ravara, Ryanair’s Head of Sales and Marketing, and a cake decorated with the airport and Ryanair’s logos was cut.

Glyn Jones said: “This is an exciting time for the airport. We welcomed 1.5million passengers last year. With the arrival of Ryanair, we will be welcoming 2.5 million. We are growing fast.

“We believe we can maintain this momentum with more airlines recognising that we represent an attracting destination for growth in London.”

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