The company which owns Southend airport today admitted that efforts to attract new airlines was taking longer than expected.
Stobart Group reported a 22% rise in year-on-year passengers using the Essex airport in the five months to the end of July.
The company said today in a pre-close trading statement: “We continue to have advanced talks with a view to introducing additional airlines to operate from London Southend airport.
“This is taking longer than originally planned, with airlines’ planning schedules requiring a lead time of 6 to 18 months for investment in new operations.”
Stobart added that earnings [EBITDA] per passenger from commercial airport activities is “close to the management’s target”.
It added that “commercial enhancement activities” are ongoing.
“We continue to support new route development at London Southend airport through our franchise with Flybe operated by our regional airline,” Stobart added.
“In May 2017, we started operations to 11 additional European destinations.
“The group is confident about meeting the 2018 and 2022 calendar year targets but with some risk in the near-term targets.”
Stobart is looking for 2.5 million passengers to be using the airport by the end of 2018, doubling to 5 million by 2022, but admitted this was dependent on securing a major airline to start operations next year.
The group’s new chief executive Warwick Brady, former chief operating officer at easyJet, said: “In order to meet our aviation target we need to build a portfolio of airlines that will capitalise on London’s capacity constraints as well as the large London catchment.
“This has taken longer than we originally envisaged. However, I am convinced that the overwhelming demand for additional airport capacity in London means we will ultimately meet this objective.”
The company attributed the rise in passenger numbers in the first five months of the year to growing awareness of the airport’s customer proposition.
“London Southend airport offers a convenient and efficient experience at a time when demand for air travel in the London area is increasing and the other airports are at capacity, particularly at peak times,” Stobart said.