Southend airport has agreed a deal for CityJet to establish a network of flights to 18 destinations.

The move is expected to bring up to 600,000 new passengers a year to the Essex airport from next April.

The Dublin-based airline currently operates to seven destinations from London City airport.

The new collaboration is expected to lead to CityJet operating up to four aircraft from Southend.

The disclosure came this morning from airport owner Stobart Group, which revealed that annual passengers numbers using the airport fell back to 487,000 in the year to August 31 from 504,000 the previous year.

However, earnings rose to £700,000 from £400,000 as revenue increased by £100,000 to £12 million.

The Stobart Aviation division aims to increase passenger numbers using Southend airport to 2.5 million by 2018 with discussions underway with other unnamed airlines.

The company said: “The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has had a short-term impact on business development, with some airlines delaying further investment in their UK operations.

“However, the group remains confident that it has the relationships in place to deliver the anticipated growth in passenger volumes, as evidenced by easyJet’s growth and the new arrangement with CityJet.

“We continue to work with our existing and new operators to grow passenger numbers by offering further destinations through London Southend airport.”

Stobart Group chief executive Andrew Tinkler said: “We are very pleased to be working with CityJet to add new flights at London Southend airport.

“This arrangement will open up around 18 new destinations, giving our customers more choice.

“These additional services could bring up to 600,000 passengers per year to the airport providing us with further momentum towards achieving our target run rate of 2.5 million passengers by 2018.”