One new destination is being added and other routes are returning as part of a planned 80% capacity hike by Flybe and Stobart Air from Southend airport next summer.

A new route to Antwerp is being introduced while flights will resume to the Croatian sun destinations of Dubrovnik and Zadar.

The Antwerp service, operated by a 70-seat ATR-72 aircraft, will be flown by Stobart Air through a franchise partnership with Flybe from next summer. It will run four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

A total of 15 routes will be operated with extra seats to European cities such as Budapest, Cologne, Vienna and Prague.

French destinations include Rennes, Caen and Lyon with an additional 15,500 seats.

Stobart Air, through the franchise agreement with Flybe, will deploy in an additional aircraft from Southend, making a total of five based at the airport.

The 2018 summer schedule for Stobart Air/Flybe, which runs from June 17 to September 9, includes up to 230 flights a week.

The news follows easyJet announcing plans to base a fourth Airbus A320 at Southend from July 25.

Glyn Jones, CEO of airport owner Stobart Aviation, said: “We’re hugely excited about what we’re now offering passengers, almost doubling the number of flights next summer.

“Simply, there’s more choice with a brand new route to Antwerp and the return of increasingly popular destinations in Croatia from next summer.”

He added: “There’s a correlation showing travel demand is driven by airline capacity. We’ve added hundreds of extra flights and thousands of more seats for next year’s peak summer season.

“But what is helping London Southend airport go from strength to strength is our promise to deliver a better way to travel – more comfort, faster access, fewer queues and a friendlier experience than larger airports in the south east.”