London Southend Airport
Airport typePublic
OwnerLondon Southend Airport Company Ltd.
ServesGreater London and southern Essex
LocationSouthend-on-Sea and Rochford, England, UK
Opened1935; 89 years ago (1935)
Focus city foreasyJet
Built1914; 110 years ago (1914)
Elevation AMSL55 ft / 17 m
Coordinates51°34′13″N 000°41′36″E / 51.57028°N 0.69333°E / 51.57028; 0.69333
EGMC is located in Essex
Location in Essex
Direction Length Surface
m ft
05/23 1,856 6,089 Asphalt
Statistics (2022)
Passenger change 21-22Decrease5%
Aircraft movements26,624
Movements change 21-22Decrease27%
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]

London Southend Airport (IATA: SEN, ICAO: EGMC) is a minor international airport situated on the outskirts of Southend-on-Sea in Essex, England, approximately 36 miles (58 km) from the centre of London.[3] The airport straddles the boundaries between the city of Southend-on-Sea and the Rochford District.

Southend was London's third-busiest airport from the 1960s until the end of the 1970s, when it was overtaken in passenger numbers by London Stansted Airport.[4][5] Following its purchase by Stobart Group in 2008,[5] a development programme[6][7][8] provided a new terminal[9] and control tower,[10] extended the runway,[11] and opened Southend Airport railway station (on the Shenfield–Southend line), which provides a connection to central London via a regular rail service between Liverpool Street Station and Southend Victoria.[10]



The airport is located between Southend-on-Sea and Rochford town and city centres, 1.5 NM (2.8 km; 1.7 mi) north of Southend,[1] in the county of Essex, 36 miles (58 km) east of central London. It has a single 1,856m (6,089ft) long asphalt runway on a south-west/north-east axis.[12]

The current passenger terminal, built in 2012, has the capacity to serve five to six million passengers per year.[13] The former terminal is now operated by the London Southend Jet Centre, a fixed-base operator who provide facilities for the handling of executive aircraft.[14] A four-star Holiday Inn hotel adjacent to the airport entrance, owned by Esken, opened on 1 October 2012, at that time having the only rooftop restaurant in Essex.[15]

London Southend was voted the best airport in Britain for three consecutive years by consumer group Which? in 2013,[16] 2014[17] and 2015.[18] It won best London airport for six consecutive years between 2013-2019.[19] In the years the airport did not rank number one it has typically scored well.

The airport was put up for sale by current owners Esken in March 2023 following a review of the group's core businesses.[20][21]


Aerial view looking north-east, prior to the construction of the runway extension

London Southend Airport mainly handles scheduled passenger, charter, cargo and business flights, alongside general aviation flying and pilot training (both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter). The airport is run by London Southend Airport Co Ltd, which employs around 250 people.[22] During the large 2012 airport expansion, there were over 500 more people working at the airport compared to the same time in 2011.[23]

Southend Airport has a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Ordinary Licence that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (London Southend Airport Company Limited).[24]

The airport's location means it has an excellent weather record, and is used by airlines as a diversion alternative when adverse weather or incidents cause other London airports to be closed.[25]

Airline ground handling is provided by Esken-owned Star Handling,[26] while the London Southend Jet Centre handles aircraft using their services.[27]

Companies located within the airport boundary employ around 450 workers, with businesses including aircraft maintenance, flying clubs and the airport-owned hotel.[28] Previously British World Airlines had its head office at Viscount House at London Southend Airport.[29]

easyJet began operating services by opening a base at Southend in April 2012[30][31] and Irish carrier Aer Lingus Regional began regular flights to Dublin in May,[32] resulting in a rapid increase in airport passenger numbers during 2012,[2] with 721,661 using the airport in that year,[33] 969,912 in 2013[2] and 1,102,358 in 2014.[2] The following year saw a decline to 900,648 and again to 874,549 in 2016, while 2017 saw passenger numbers increase more than 25% to 1,095,914.[2] In 2011, the airport operator planned to reach passenger numbers of two million per year by 2020.[4][7] In 2018, the airport saw an increase of nearly 400,000 passengers over the previous year's total, with just over 1.4 million passengers.[34] The airport successfully reached over two million passengers in 2019, its best year to date.[35] Since 2020 and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport declined however is in resurgence as of 2023.


Early years

Personnel of 121 Squadron watch Supermarine Spitfires coming into land at RAF Rochford, August 1943

In 1909, two men from Leigh tested their monoplanes in the same site of the airport.

The airfield was established by the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. It was the largest flying ground in Essex, with the greatest number of units. In May 1915 the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) took over until 4 June 1916, when it became RFC Rochford. It was designated as night fighter station and many sorties were flown against Zeppelin airship raiders, including LZ38 on 31 May 1915. Around 1919, the station closed and reverted to farmland, which it remained as until 1933 when Southend Borough Council bought the land.[36][37]

The airport was officially opened as a municipal airport on 18 September 1935 by the Under-Secretary of State for Air, Sir Philip Sassoon, who arrived in his de Havilland Leopard Moth.[38]

In 1939, the Air Ministry requisitioned the airfield and it was known as RAF Rochford during World War II as a satellite airfield. During World War II, it became a base for fighter squadrons comprising Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes as well as Bristol Blenheims.[39] Many of the 50 pillboxes that were designed to protect the airport from paratroop landings still survive, as does the underground defence control room, which is near to Southend Flying Club. A further 20 or so pillboxes also remain in the surrounding countryside. Canewdon, 2 miles (3 km) north-east of the airport, was the location of one of the World War II Chain Home radar stations. The 360-foot (110 m) high transmitter tower at Canewdon was relocated to the Marconi works at Great Baddow in the 1950s.[40]


In the 1950s, three new runways were added, enabling commercial flights for passengers and cargo.[41] Runway 6/24 (now runway 5/23) was extended to 1,645m in 1960, while the third runway was removed.

During the 1960s, Southend became third busiest airport in the UK.[citation needed] In 1967, it served 692,686 passengers; the same year, it had its first fatal crash.[42]

1970s decline

At the end of February 1972, Channel Airways, which had its hub and headquarters at Southend, ceased operations.

In the 1970s, the proximity of housing on nearby roads, as well as St Laurence Church on Eastwoodbury Lane less than 100m from the runway prevented expansion. The airport's decline accelerated as jet aircraft were unable to use the runway due to its short length. As flights were withdrawn, engineering and maintenance became a more important part of airport operations.

1993: Regional Airports Ltd

Temporary closing of barriers across Eastwoodbury Lane was required for large aircraft movements until the road was diverted to enable the construction of the runway extension in August 2012

In 1993, after the airport had been losing money for many years, Southend Borough Council sold the airport to Regional Airports Ltd. (RAL), operator of Biggin Hill Airport. London Southend Airport Co. Ltd. was formed to operate the airport which was re-branded as "London Southend Airport" with the term "Municipal" dropping from the title. The previous losses were turned into small profits for majority of tenure by RAL.[citation needed]

The largest aircraft ever to land at the airport was in November 1998 when a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar of Irish airline Aer Turas arrived for scrapping at the airport.[citation needed]

In 2001, a debate centred on the possible relocation of the Grade I listed St Laurence and All Saints Church further away from the side of the main runway. The proposal was dropped after the planning application was rejected by Southend Council in 2003,[43] and a compromise scheme was implemented resulting in the installation of new barriers across Eastwoodbury Lane and requiring slightly shorter licensed runway lengths once safety areas had been added.[44] These changes allowed passenger flights to be restarted, although the runway length still largely curtailed the potential range and payloads for passenger flights, and scheduled airline utilisation was low, until the March 2012 runway extension opened.[citation needed]

Flightline was an airline formed in 1989 headquartered at Southend, where they also had a maintenance/engineering base for their own and third party aircraft. They mainly operated British Aerospace 146 aircraft on ad-hoc charters, and an Avro RJ100 regional jet with which they operated a regular service between Southend and Cologne from 7 June 2006 to 1 December 2008 on behalf of Ford Motor Company as a corporate shuttle.[45] Flightline went into administration on 3 December 2008.[46]

In January 2008, Regional Airports Ltd. put the airport up for sale.[47]

Flybe operated a once weekly summer-only service to Jersey using Dash 8 aircraft, ending in 2011.

2008: Stobart Group

Pre-extension terminal building seen from railway station, illustrating proximity.
Interior of terminal building, seen from café by arrivals, and showing check-in area and escalator to departures.

The airport was bought on 2 December 2008 by the Stobart Group for £21 million, becoming part of the Stobart Air division of the Stobart Group, which also operates Carlisle Airport.[48]

Following council consultation with the local population, a planning application to extend the usable runway length by 300 m (984 ft) to 1,799 m (5,902 ft) and upgrade navigational and lighting aids, was submitted to Southend Borough Council 13 October 2009. Planning permission was granted 20 January 2010. Initially subject to an Article 14 Direction, after due consideration by the Government this was withdrawn 19 March 2010, meaning it would not be subject to a Public Inquiry.[49] A Section 106 agreement was entered into between the airport and local councils.

On 1 June 2010, Stobart Group took a £100 million loan from M & G Investments, partly in order to fund the airport construction.[50] In July 2010, an application for a judicial review of the planning application was filed,[51] which was dismissed on 2 February 2011.[52] On 23 September 2010, the airport received the Airport Achievement Award 2010/11 from the European Regions Airline Association.[53]

A replacement air traffic control tower became operational 21 March 2011, followed by the return of year-round daily passenger services 27 March 2011 when Aer Arann commenced services to Galway and Waterford in Ireland.[54][55]

EasyJet announced a ten-year agreement with Stobart Group in June 2011, and in April 2012 commenced around 70 flights per week from Southend, using three Airbus A319 aircraft based at the airport,[56][57] flying to eight European destinations. Easyjet's operation at the airport increased to 16 destinations and in the summer of 2018 they based a fourth aircraft at Southend, an Airbus A320.[58]

A new on-site rail station opened on 18 July 2011[59] (the official opening by Minister for Transport Theresa Villiers MP was on 21 September 2011),[60] and a new road opened on 1 September 2011, replacing Eastwoodbury Lane that lay in the path required for the runway extension.[61]

2012–2019: London Olympics and expansion of passenger flights

Before the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, a new terminal was built by Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd during 2011 and opened 28 February 2012 (the official opening was by Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Transport, on 5 March 2012).[62] The original terminal has been redeveloped for use by private jets, with Stobart Air having invested half a million pounds turning it into an executive business lounge.[63]

The extended runway opened on 8 March 2012, with Category I ILS on both ends of the runway.[citation needed]

In spring 2014, Stobart Air announced that it had agreed a five-year franchise agreement with Flybe which would see two Flybe-branded aircraft based at Southend operating six routes from summer 2014.[64][65] On 18 January 2015, two routes were terminated with the operation reduced to one aircraft. On 7 April 2014, the extension to the passenger terminal was formally opened by Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport.[66]

ATC Lasham, the major engineering company at the airport, entered administration in October 2015.[67] The main hangar that it used dated back to Aviation Traders Engineering Limited (ATEL) – founded by the late Sir Freddie Laker – and was later used by Heavylift Engineering.

In December 2016, Flybe announced it would be adding new routes from summer 2017 to 12 European destinations, primarily aimed at the weekend break customers.[68] The airline based two Embraer 195 aircraft at the airport. In October 2017, Flybe added high frequency domestic routes to the airport, with up to 18 flights per week to Manchester, up to 16 flights per week to Dublin and up to 10 flights per week to Glasgow. An additional ATR 72 was based at the airport to operate the Manchester flights, bringing the total number of Flybe aircraft based at Southend to four.[69]

In February 2018, Air Malta announced it would begin flights to Cagliari, Catania and Malta,[70] which began in May 2018 although the Cagliari and Catania flights ceased in January 2019.[71] In June 2018, Ryanair announced it would open a base at Southend, basing three aircraft there operating 55 flights per week to 13 destinations,[72] which began in April 2019. In October 2018, Flybe announced it would commence five flights per week to Newquay Airport from April 2019, increasing to daily from May 2019.[73]

In May 2019, Loganair started to fly to Aberdeen, Glasgow and Stornoway;[74] in July 2019 to Carlisle, and Derry flights moved from Stansted to Southend on 27 October 2019.[75] On 31 October 2019 Ryanair announced four new routes to launch in Summer 2020 - Bergerac, Girona and Marseille[76] were first announced before Rodez was announced[77] as the route was moved from Stansted to Southend. On 14 November 2019 Loganair announced that the Stornoway to Glasgow to Southend service would be withdrawn from 3 January 2020.[78][79]

COVID-19 pandemic and consolidation 2020-2021

On 22 January 2020, Norwegian airline Widerøe announced it would move its Kristiansand route from Stansted to Southend at the start of the Summer 2020 season,[80] however due to the COVID-19 pandemic this was initially postponed until 26 October 2020 before being cancelled completely when the airline chose not to return to the airport and moved to Heathrow in March 2021.[citation needed]

On 20 February 2020, it was announced Loganair would suspend its Aberdeen service[81] and on 23 March, similarly the Carlisle service.[82]

At the commencement of the COVID-19 UK lockdown, Wizz Air's revised schedule consolidated the Sibiu route at Luton Airport from when it re-started, cutting the route from Southend. In June 2020, Wizz Air cut Vilnius as a destination from Southend as well,[83] leaving it with one route to Bucharest which had also since been suspended.

On 17 August 2020, easyJet announced it would close its base at Southend entirely due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the last scheduled flight occurring on 31 August 2020.[84] On 6 August 2021, Ryanair also announced the closure of its base at Southend, effective 30 October 2021[85] leaving the airport with barely any scheduled services for the time being.

Post COVID resumption since 2021

On 17 December 2021, easyJet signed a multi-year deal with the airport and announced that they would initially return in a limited capacity with routes to Málaga and Palma de Mallorca.[86] In 2022 it was announced that easyJet would add flights to Amsterdam and Faro for the Summer 2023 season.[87] Further routes to Paris, Geneva, Grenoble and Alicante were announced in 2023.[88]

In May 2022, Air Horizont announced it would base two of its Boeing 737 aircraft at the airport for VIP charter flights.[89] In September 2022, ASL Airlines Ireland, operating for Amazon, announced it would terminate its cargo flights from Southend to Rome which was the airport's sole scheduled freight operation.[90]

On 21 June 2023, the airport owner, Esken announced that the airport had been put up for sale following a strategic review of the group's businesses.[91] In July 2023, BH Air announced a route to Burgas for the Summer 2024 season.[92] In August 2023, 2Excel Aviation, operating for Oil Spill Response, announced it would use the airport as a base for its two Boeing 727 aircraft to respond to international oil incidents.[93]



The current terminal was built in 2012 as a part of the Stobart Group's development upon taking over the airport. It has twelve check-ins, two floors, ten departure gates and two baggage claims. There are several amenities such as shops and places to eat and drink.[94]

London Southend Jet Centre

The London Southend Jet Centre is a fixed-base operator established in 2017 and situated at the airport with their own terminal, parking stands and hanger. The Jet Centre specialises in VIP facilities and handling for business and private aviation, alongside providing services to aircraft that have based themselves with the Jet Centre.[95] LSJC also accommodate visiting aircraft such as the Air Ambulance and Royal Air Force.[96][97]


There were originally three runways in the 1950s with one removed in 1960s. A second one was also removed in the 1990s, leaving one runway remaining and used today, 23/05. In 2012, there was an additional 300m runway extension to bring its present length to 1,856m (6,089ft).[98] In 2019, the runway was resurfaced to grooved asphalt for better durability and performance so that heavier aircraft, such as the Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A321, can commercially operate at the airport.[99]

Whilst the physical runway length is 1,856m (6,089ft), the declared Takeoff Distance Available (TDA) and Landing Distance Available (LDA) for both ends of the runway is limited to 1,799m (5,902ft) and 1,604m (5,262ft), respectively, due to the runway's restricted 36m (118ft) width because of St Laurence and All Saints Church.[100] Following the 2012 runway extension, both ends of the runway are equipped with category I instrument landing system.[101]

Some of the largest aircraft that have operated at the airport include the Airbus A300, Lockheed L-1011 TriStar and Ilyushin Il-76, non-commercially being empty for maintenance or scrapping.[102][103][104]

Airlines and destinations

The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights at London Southend Airport:[105][106]

AeroItalia Bergamo (begins 25 March 2024)[107]
BH Air Seasonal: Burgas (begins 17 June 2024)[108]
easyJet Alicante,[109] Amsterdam,[110][111] Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Seasonal: Faro, Geneva,[112] Grenoble (begins 4 February 2024),[113] Málaga, Palma de Mallorca


Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on
Annual passenger traffic at SEN airport. See Wikidata query.
Busiest routes to or from London Southend Airport (2022)[114]
Rank Airport Passengers handled Change
1 Málaga 42,487 Increase 120.9%
2 Faro 28,231 Increase 31.6%
3 Palma de Mallorca 16,600 Increase 222.9%
Airport passengers and air movements
Year Passengers Air movements
1994 495 51,223
1995 600 54,826
1996 4,251 57,361
1997 9,000 TBA
1998 4,000 TBA
1999 3,555 TBA
2000 3,262 TBA
2001 4,366 TBA
2002 4,959 43,054
2003 2,702 42,803
2004 3,224 37,558
2005 5,133 38,696
2006 30,222 TBA
2007 49,311 39,881
2008 44,075 37,227
2009 3,948 31,789
2010 3,583 27,320
2011 42,439 25,470
2012 616,974 27,715
2013 969,912 29,443
2014 1,102,358 30,514
2015 900,658 23,358
2016 874,549 23,449
2017 1,092,391 26,674
2018 1,480,139 32,531
2019 2,035,535 36,473
2020 401,143 18,401
2021 94,367 34,114
2022 89,361 26,624
2023 Jan-Nov 131,864 30,144

Ground transport

Southend Airport railway station. The terminal can be seen on the right.


Since 2011, the airport has its own railway station near the terminal building, Southend Airport railway station on the Shenfield to Southend Line, which is served by Greater Anglia connecting the airport to Liverpool Street station in London up to eight times per hour during peak times and Southend Victoria railway station in the other direction respectively. The journey to London takes about 55 minutes.[115]

A later train has now been added to London every night, except Saturday night, and an earlier train to the airport from London every day, except Sunday morning.[116]


The airport is served by buses operated by Arriva Southend from the airport entrance to Southend (7, 8 and 9), Rochford (7 and 8), Ashingdon (7), Hawkwell (8), Hockley (7 and 8), Eastwood (9) and Rayleigh (7, 8 and 9).[117] First Essex operates Essex Airlink X30 from the terminal to Chelmsford and Stansted Airport.[118][119] Since 5 October 2019, Ensignbus have operated the Jetlink X1,[120][121] a night bus service running once in each direction from Southend Airport to Grosvenor Gardens, London via Lakeside Shopping Centre bus station, Canning Town and Embankment stations, however this bus service has since been withdrawn due to it being banned by the airport authorities.[122][123]

Accidents and incidents

See also


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