London Southend Airport is a well-established facility serving business and leisure passengers flying within the UK, Europe and beyond.
Very close to mainland Europe, and outside of congested London airspace, Southend is free from overcrowding both on the ground and in the air, yet is just a short hop into the heart of the Capital.
London Southend airport has a fascinating and varied history. Periods of busy activity have been followed by quiet years and threats of extinction leading to its current new dawn with re-investment, redevelopment and plans for an exciting future serving a regenerated Southend and expanding London Gateway.
The First World War saw the creation of Southend as a flying base. The War Office listed the site as a potential landing ground in 1914, the first flight followed in 1915 when Flight Sub Lieutenant A.W. Robinson took off in a Bleriot aircraft in an (unsuccessful) attempt to intercept a German Army Zeppelin. This led to regular RFC activity at Southend throughout the War until 1919. In 1933 the site was purchased by Southend Council, and was officially opened in 1935.
With the start of the Second World War Southend Airport was again requisitioned by the RAF and all civil flying ceased. Over the course of the War a number of Squadrons featuring a variety of nationalities were based on the site. After the war ended Southend Council again took over the airport, running scheduled services in the late 1940’s to the Channel Islands and Ostend.
Two new runways were laid in the mid-1950’s which led to commercial flights for both passengers and cargo operations. In 1967 British Air Ferries were formed and for many years became synonymous with Southend Airport. 1967 also saw a record number of passengers using the airport – a remarkable 692,686. By the mid-1970’s traffic at the Airport was in decline, despite BAF and, later, Air UK continued to run scheduled services to a variety of European destinations and the Channel Islands. Engineering and maintenance operations become an increasing part of the Airport’s business.
In 1994 Southend Council sold it to its previous Regional Airports Ltd. In 1998 the government had the go ahead for London Southend Airport to build a new passenger terminal and railway station.
London Southend Airport was sold in 2008 to Stobart Group, in October 2009 a planning application to extend the runway was submitted and on 20th January 2010 this was passed by Southend Borough Council’s Development Control Committee. The application was then sent for review by the local government for the East of England, which was duly passed on the 19th March.
The brand new Southend Airport railway station was made operational in July 2011 with up to 8 trains an hour into Central London and was officially opened by the Minister of State for Transport the Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP in September 2011.
A brand new, a state of the art Air Traffic Control tower was made operational in July 2011.
A new, re-sited, passenger terminal building was opened to the public in February 2012 and was officially opened by the Secretary of State for Transport the Rt. Hon. Justine Greening MP in March 2012.
A runway extension was also made operational in March 2012. Whilst modest in size, this would allow for London Southend to accommodate the new generation of medium capacity, high-efficiency jets being adopted by regional airlines operating scheduled flights and shorter range holiday charter.
A brand new Business Lounge in the Arrivals Hall in the old London Southend Airport terminal building underwent a £500,000 transformation creating the state-of-the-art facility which was made operational in July 2012. The new area includes a meeting room (complete with full video conferencing technology), a pilot’s rest zone and facilities for drivers who are waiting for passengers.
A brand new on site hotel, Holiday Inn Southend, was opened to the public in October 2012. The hotel boasts 129 rooms, 14 executive rooms, six suites and a rooftop bar and terrace
In April 2012 a proposed extension to the new terminal at London Southend Airport was given the go-ahead by Rochford Council. The Phase 2 extension is to ensure that high standards of service are not compromised as passenger numbers grow towards 2million per year by 2020. The terminal building became 90 metres longer. The number of check in desks / baggage drop off points increased, as did the amount of security screening channels. The Departure Lounge grew in size to enhance the experience for passengers relaxing and awaiting boarding after security. A larger Arrivals area enhanced baggage reclaim facilities and a larger immigration area. Retail and catering facilities were expanded throughout the terminal in order to provide a much wider range of shops and services available to passengers.
In March 2014 the final part of the phase 2 development went live meaning that the entire extension was live. The terminal was officialy opened in April 2014.