Southend airport owner seeks to replace easyJet routes

The owner of Southend airport is seeking to replace routes being lost with the with withdrawal of easyJet.

The budget carrier is closing three UK bases – Southend, Stansted and Newcastle – although the airports will remain part of its network.

EasyJet restarted its schedule from Southend with flights to four destinations on July 20 as consultation takes place.

David Shearer, chairman of Southend airport owner Stobart Group, said: “We believe easyJet operated a number of attractive, well-established routes from London Southend and remain in dialogue with them.

“Whilst we await the conclusion of their consultation period, we have also commenced discussions with other airlines regarding their interest in some of these routes.”

The disclosure came after Ryanair resumed flights on July 1 following Covid-19 lockdown.

The Irish no-frills carrier is ramping up services from Southend from nine to 14 destinations in August including to the new routes to Bucharest and Marseille.

Wizz Air started flying on July 6.

The airport is currently handling 35 flights per week, achieving “good” load factors.

Shearer, addressing the company’s agm today, will say: “The global Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on economies and businesses as a whole, and the aviation sector in particular.”

However, Southend airport is a “key strategic asset” for the group.

“There is the opportunity to create further shareholder value in the medium term due to three key factors: our ability to establish an enhanced passenger experience for post-Covid-19 travel; the ability to offer a cost efficient London base of operation to all airlines; and the airport’s location serving London, which pre-COVID-19, was the largest travel market in the world,” according to Shearer.

“We have taken steps to enhance the passenger experience by putting in place best-in-class cleaning measures and by utilising existing space and new technology.

“London Southend airport has now installed and is operating next generation security scanning equipment that is part of our contact free plan for the airport.

“We will continue to invest in line with the anticipated increase in the passenger volumes.”

The group’s regional airline Stobart Air, which operates franchise services for Aer Lingus, has much of its network suspended until August 20 pending the Irish government’s decision on a 14-day quarantine exemption.

The airline is operating limited flights from Dublin to Kerry and Donegal under Public Service arrangement, as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Shearer will tell shareholders: “In order to optimise the existing fleet and to minimise financial exposure to the Stobart Group, Stobart Air has opened a new base at Belfast City airport and has put on sale routes to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands and Leeds Bradford under its Aer Lingus franchise agreement.

“Despite this positive progress, the operating environment remains challenging and costs are being closely monitored with steps being taken to conserve cash.

“Stobart Group’s overriding objective is to mitigate its financial exposure and we have commenced early discussions with potential partners around the long-term future of this business.”

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