JET-SETTING holidaymakers looking for some early Spring sun took off for Malaga in Southend Airport’s first commercial flight of the year.

Passengers traded in the grey overcast skies of Southend for the 20°C heat of the sunny Spanish coastal city.

The airport was alive with activity, as customers enjoyed complementary drinks and cupcakes at the brand new Skycafe in the departure lounge.

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It was the first passenger flight to take off from the airport following a five month hiatus.

Echo: Ready for take offReady for take off (Image: Southend Airport)

“On behalf of myself and the incredible team at London Southend, it is with great pleasure that we are once again able to do what we do best and serve our passengers, alongside our airline partner easyJet,”. John Upton, CEO Southend Airport,

The budget airline giant ran flights last year from between May and October 31 – having returned to the airport after quitting operations during the pandemic.

Echo: CEO John Upton (middle) with the cabin crewCEO John Upton (middle) with the cabin crew (Image: Southend Airport)

Ryanair and Wizz Air both also quit at the height of Covid-19, leaving the airport reeling.

Last year’s return of passenger flights was a big boost, but the airport is still lagging behind the national aviation industry recovery. While UK airports have recovered on average to about 80 per cent of their pre-pandemic numbers, Southend clocked up just 5 per cent of summer 2019’s passengers in 2022.

Echo: Checking inChecking in (Image: Southend Airport)

With an increased schedule this year – including a new route to Amsterdam and extra flights to Faro – airport bosses remain bullish over an improved recovery.

“Millions of people living in east London and the east of England need an airport that they can get to quickly and easily, Southend Airport is just that,” Mr Upton said.

Echo: Ready for take offReady for take off (Image: Southend Airport)

“Many of this morning’s passengers arrived from London and from across Essex and the Southeast by train, demonstrating just how well connected we are.”

It takes just over 40 minutes to travel by train to Southend Airport, making it quicker and easier to reach for many Londoners than Luton, Stansted and Gatwick Airports, a point Mr Upton is keen to stress.

Echo: Passengers enjoy the new Skycafe in the departure loungePassengers enjoy the new Skycafe in the departure lounge (Image: Southend Airport)

“People can then travel through our modern airport terminal, and relax in our departures lounge, starting their well-earned holidays the right way,” he said.

With tickets on sale to Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, Faro and the latest addition recently Amsterdam, the airport is looking to expand.

The CEO, who took over in August 2022, added his team are hard at work securing new destinations and airline partners.