I went to a very informative and enjoyable business breakfast meeting the other day. The purpose of the event was to update local business owners and other interested parties on the development of Southend Airport or London Southend Airport as the owners like to call it. I like to call it “The Airfield” but that is another story.
In past years the airport had declined considerably in use and had been badly neglected. In the Sixties it was actually the third busiest airport in the UK, incredible as it may seem, with frequent flights especially to Northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. You could actually take your car on the aircraft with British Air Ferries even into the Seventies. I am not sure when all this stopped. Maybe a local historian could tell me. Anyway, the airfield did not move with the times, and certainly when I spent a lot of time hanging around there it was mostly the domain of the flying clubs. Therefore it was not making much money or contributing to the local economy to the extent it could have been.
Nearly three years ago, the airport was purchased by Stobart Group. They have embarked on extensive redevelopment, have built and staff a railway station on the line which passes along the airport perimeter, and which is a very short walk from the new airport terminal.
The airport managing director addressed our breakfast meeting and briefed us on the Company’s plans. EasyJet will base three aircraft at Southend from April 2012 (A319s if you are interested). They will have 70 flights a week (easyJet aircraft don’t sit on the ground for long) and we can fly to Barcelona, Malaga, Faro and seven other European destinations. There are also flights to Galway and Waterford already flown by Aer Arann.
The runway is being extended, environmental concerns in the immediate vicinity have been addressed, and the extra runway length means that although larger, the passenger aircraft that can now operate will be quieter than those that can use the present “one mile” runway. If you are interested, the runway as seen in the above photo is being extended towards the camera viewpoint so coming from where we are looking, aircraft will be able to land on “Zero-Six” fractionally earlier.
I cannot speak for all the local residents, but I think the new airport will be great for business in the Southend area. It will bring in more jobs, easyJet will need to base staff in the area, and there will be other services on-site such as catering, security and cleaning which will provide local employment.
One upside which the airport already had was the 1300 people employed in the aviation related businesses around the perimeter, which are involved in aircraft maintenance and refurbishment. In fact easyJet have been able to fly in unladen aircraft for some years to be re-fitted. When they acquired BA’s budget airline Go, much of the re-painting and branding was done at Southend. Now Southend will be welcoming their planes with full compliments of passengers.
Seventy per cent of passengers will arrive by rail. There will be no strain on existing roads and despite what Eddie Stobart is famous for, there will be little in the way of freight passing through Southend
- More jobs for the local population
- More people coming in to spend their money
- Far sighted outside investors and a local authority which shares the vision.
I am delighted the airport is going to be a hub for local small business and for residents to enjoy. All this has happened in very difficult times for the economy and we can once again see that success in business comes because people invest time, money and creativity. Doing nothing is not an option, because that is a recipe for failure, isn’t it?
- easyJet plans routes from London Southend Airport (gadling.com)
- Southend Airport railway station officially opened (bbc.co.uk)