London Southend Airport
|Owner||London Southend Airport Company Ltd.|
|Serves||Greater London and southern Essex|
|Location||Southend-on-Sea and Rochford, England, UK|
|Opened||•1914 (Established) •1935 (Opened as Southend Municipal Airport)|
|Elevation AMSL||55 ft / 17 m|
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. 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. Following its purchase by Stobart Group in 2008, a development programme provided a new terminal and control tower, extended the runway, and added a connection to central London via a regular rail service running between Liverpool Street Station and Southend Airport Station on the Shenfield–Southend line, continuing on to Southend Victoria.
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, in the county of Essex, 36 miles (58 km) east of central London. It has a single 1,856-metre (6,089 ft) long asphalt runway on a south-west/north-east axis and is capable of handling passenger aircraft the size of the Boeing 767 and similar wide-body aircraft.
The current terminal was completed in February 2012. The terminal has since been extended by 90 metres, almost tripling the facility in size. It has two baggage claims, two floors and ten departures gates.
The former terminal now provides facilities for the handling of executive aircraft, with a business lounge and conference rooms. A four-star Holiday Inn hotel adjacent to the airport entrance, owned by the Stobart Group, opened on 1 October 2012, at that time having the only rooftop restaurant in Essex.
London Southend was voted the best airport in Britain for three consecutive years by consumer group Which?, in 2013, 2014 and again in 2015, and best London airport for 6 consecutive years 2013-2019.
The airport was put up for sale by current owners Esken in March 2023.
Southend Airport handles mainly scheduled passenger, charter, cargo and business flights, with some pilot training (both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter) and private aircraft flying. The airport is run by London Southend Airport Co Ltd, which employs more than 150 people directly. Due to expansion, there were over 500 more people working at the airport in summer 2012 compared with summer 2011.
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).
Southend Airport 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.
Airline ground handling is provided by the Stobart Group-owned Stobart Aviation Services, while the Stobart Jet Centre handles executive aircraft using the facility.
Companies located within the airport boundary employ more than 800 workers. Previously British World Airlines had its head office at Viscount House at London Southend Airport.
EasyJet began operating services by opening a base at Southend in April 2012 and Irish carrier Aer Lingus Regional began regular flights to Dublin in May, resulting in a rapid increase in airport passenger numbers during 2012, with 721,661 using the airport in that year, 969,912 in 2013 and 1,102,358 in 2014. 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. In 2011, the airport operator planned to reach passenger numbers of two million per year by 2020. In 2018, Southend Airport saw an increase of nearly 400,000 passengers over the previous year's total, with just over 1.4 million passengers using the airport, the highest annual total at the airport to that date.
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 the 1930s.
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.
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. 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.
In the 1950’s, three new runways added as tarmac, enabling commercial flights for the passengers and cargo operations. The runway 6/24 (now runway 5/23) extended to 1,645m in 1960 while the third runway was removed.
During the 1960’s, Southend became third busiest airport in the UK with the couple of airlines operating to and from. In 1967, they reached 692,686 passengers: that year also saw the airport's first fatal crash.
In the end of February, 1972, Channel Airways ceased operations after serving its hub and headquarters.
In the 1970’s, the nearby road with houses and St Laurence Church on Eastwoodbury Lane prevented runway expansion. Jets also stopped coming as the runway was too short accelerating decline.
As flights left, engineering and maintenance became a more important part of airport operations.
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.
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.
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, 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. 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.
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. Flightline went into administration on 3 December 2008.
In January 2008, Regional Airports Ltd put the airport up for sale.
Flybe operated a once weekly summer-only service to Jersey using Dash 8 aircraft, ending in 2011.
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.
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. 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. In July 2010, an application for a judicial review of the planning application was filed, which was dismissed on 2 February 2011. On 23 September 2010, the airport received the Airport Achievement Award 2010/11 from the European Regions Airline Association.
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.
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, 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.
A new on-site rail station opened on 18 July 2011 (the official opening by Minister for Transport Theresa Villiers MP was on 21 September 2011), and a new road opened on 1 September 2011, replacing Eastwoodbury Lane that lay in the path required for the runway extension.
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). 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.
The extended runway opened on 8 March 2012, with Category I ILS on both ends of the runway.
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. 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.
ATC Lasham, the major engineering company at the airport, entered administration in October 2015. 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. 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.
In February 2018, Air Malta announced it would begin flights to Cagliari, Catania and Malta, which began in May 2018 although the Cagliari and Catania flights ceased in January 2019. In June 2018, Ryanair announced it would open a base at Southend, basing three aircraft there operating 55 flights per week to 13 destinations, 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.
In May 2019, Loganair started to fly to Aberdeen, Glasgow and Stornoway; in July 2019 to Carlisle, and Derry flights moved from Stansted to Southend on 27 October 2019. On 31 October 2019 Ryanair announced four new routes to launch in Summer 2020 - Bergerac, Girona and Marseille were first announced before Rodez was announced 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.
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, 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.
On 20 February 2020, it was announced Loganair would suspend its Aberdeen service and on 23 March, similarly the Carlisle service.
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, 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. On 6 August 2021, Ryanair also announced the closure of its base at Southend, effective 30 October 2021 leaving the airport with barely any scheduled services for the time being. On 17 December 2021, easyJet announced that they would return to the airport in a limited capacity with routes to Málaga and Palma de Mallorca. In 2022 it was announced that EasyJet would add flights to Amsterdam and Faro for the Summer 2023 season.
In September 2022, Amazon Air announced it would terminate its cargo flights from Southend to Rome which was the airport's sole scheduled freight operation.
On 21 June 2023, the airport owner, Esken announced that the airport had been put up for sale.
The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights at London Southend Airport:
|BH Air||Seasonal: Burgas (begins 17 June 2024)|
|easyJet|| Amsterdam, Paris–Charles de Gaulle (resumes 29 October 2023)|
Seasonal: Faro, Geneva (resumes 16 December 2023), Málaga, Palma de Mallorca
|Rank||Airport||Passengers handled||Change |
|3||Palma de Mallorca||16,600||222.9%|
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.
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.
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). First Essex operates Essex Airlink X30 from the terminal to Chelmsford and Stansted Airport. Since 5 October 2019, Ensignbus have operated the Jetlink X1, 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.
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