SOUTHEND Airport is eyeing up new routes and operators as excitement builds for easyJet’s return this Sunday.

Bosses say they are focused on talks with short-haul companies as they seek a bounceback from the ravages of the Covid pandemic.

They are adamant the airport has the capacity and the determination to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

They spoke as the airport geared up for the launch of easyJet flights to Faro, Palma and Malaga from Sunday.

EasyJet’s return to the airport comes as figures revealed Southend saw a 95 per cent reduction in passengers last year as the pandemic worsened.

Glyn Jones, chief executive, said: “The return of easyJet flights to London Southend Airport is of course a major milestone in the airport’s recovery.

“However, there remains much to do to return the airport to the scale of growth it experienced prepandemic.

“We continue to focus on further airline agreements that are profitable for all parties and are seeing encouragement in those discussions.

“As air travel continues to recover the London airport market will once again become capacity constrained.

“This fact, coupled with the intrinsic attractiveness in terms of proven routes, great passenger experience and ease of access by rail from Central London, underpins our view of the medium-term growth of the airport.”

Data from the Civil Aviation Authority showed Southend was among the airports with the largest reduction in passengers and flights. It is almost two years since easyJet announced it was quitting Southend Airport, in a surprise move.

However, from Sunday, easyJet will have two, weekly flights to Faro. In addition, the low-cost carrier will have four weekly flights to Palma and six weekly flights to Malaga.

An airport spokesman added: “We want to develop a sustainable airport that works for our community. We are focused on discussions with short-haul airline operators.

We aim to get back to pre-pandemic levels in the coming years.”

They stressed: “We are more focused on profitable and sustainable airline agreements than a rush to get maximum passengers.”

Bosses say their ongoing work centres on sustainability and community engagement, adding: “The airport has the capacity and the proposition to get back to pre-pandemic levels.”