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16 June, 2011 - 09:05 By Tony Quested

easyJet in Essex tug-of-hub

Southend airport owner, Stobart Group’s lorries on runway with the easyJet Airbus aircraft

easyJet could switch some services from Stansted to Southend next year, Business Weekly understands.

The Luton-based low fares airline will start operating from Southend from April 2012. It will open its new base there with three A319 aircraft and more than 150 employees.

easyJet says around 800,000 passengers are expected to fly from Southend in the first year.

There will be 70 easyJet flights per week on the schedule and passengers will have a choice of around 10 different European destinations including Barcelona, Faro and Ibiza. Tickets will go on sale at the end of July.

An easyJet spokesman said it had not yet been determined whether Stansted would lose any routes to Southend. “We know our initial routes but beyond that it is too early to say.”

Stansted sources understand the airline will reduce the number of planes based there overnight but keep the number of destinations served “there or thereabouts. We're talking with them about how this will play out going forward.”

On the record, a Stansted spokesman said: “You would have to ask easyJet about its strategy and what the rationale is for setting up a base at Southend.

“However, Stansted and Southend are very different airports with very different operational capabilities, offering very different facilities and serving vastly different numbers of passengers, so it's impossible to make any direct comparison. Southend serves a discrete catchment in south east Essex, an area which would clearly benefit from the regeneration this announcement will bring.”

London Southend Airport, with a multi million pound brand new terminal opening this autumn, will be easyJet’s 11th UK base and is located within a minute’s walk from a new train station with superb links into London.  easyJet has signed a 10-year partnership agreement with Stobart Group, owners of the airport. easyJet is ramping up fast having topped 29 million passengers a year; it is currently receiving a new Airbus every 11 days and its fleet now exceeds 200 planes.

Catherine Lynn, easyJet’s customer and revenue director, said: “We are excited to be opening London Southend as easyJet’s 20th base airport. The airport is in a fantastic location just outside London with a fast rail link into the city.

“This is a unique opportunity to offer a world class customer experience, with passengers able to get from the plane to the train in 15 minutes.

“Through offering easy and affordable travel, we expect the new routes to appeal to customers in Essex and London looking for a convenient new departure point for many top European destinations. We also believe that the European city links will also attract a high number of inbound business and leisure passengers to London next year.” Southend Airport MD Alastair Welch said the easyJet coup was a handsome payback for all the investment in new facilities at the fast-expanding hub.

He said: “This summer we open a dedicated railway station with up to eight services an hour to Stratford - site of the 2012 Olympic Games – and to London Liverpool Street, both in well under an hour.  “A new state-of-the-art control tower is now operational, work on our runway extension is underway, as is a new terminal building to be completed this autumn, and a new hotel that will open in 2012.” “All this makes London Southend an ideal gateway for both business and leisure travel across Europe, and puts us right on track for our target of serving over two million passengers annually.”

• Photograph shows: Southend airport owner, Stobart Group’s lorries on runway with the easyJet Airbus aircraft

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