London Southend Airport – A History Of London’s Smallest Airport

Introduction

Small, local, speedy service. A few words to describe London Southend Airport, passengers often remark that London Southend London Airport has a speedy process from check in to your gate because of its small size. Southend Airport is a small regional airport located on the very far outskirts of London (so far that it’s barely considered to be in London, 58 KM or 36 Miles away from the city center), in its most successful year, 2019, it served around 2 million passengers with 36,000 aircraft movements. London Southend bears the IATA code of SEN and is London’s smallest and sixth busiest airport.

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London Southend Airport (Credit: International Flight Review)
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Early Years

London Southend Airport first opened as a military airfield for the RFC (Royal Flying Corps) during World War One. At that time, it was the largest flying field in Essex (which is a county in England) and was known as RFC Rochford. In 1935 the Air Ministry made it into a municipal airport until the outbreak of WW2 when it was used as a satellite airfield. RFC Rochford also became a base for a number of Supermarine Spitfires, Hawker Hurricanes and Bristol Blenheims.

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From the end of WW2 to 1992, we do not know much about the airport apart from the fact that Southend Airport was making very large losses. So in 1993, the airport was sold to Regional Airports LTD and the name of the airport was changed from ‘London Southend Municipal Airport’ to ‘London Southend Airport’. In 1998 a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar landed, belonging to the Irish Airline Aer Turas landed at the airport for scrapping.

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21st Century

In 2001, Regional Airports LTD requested a runway expansion for the airport. The project was denied in 2003 by the Southend-On-Sea Council as in the way of the expansion was a historical community church. After owning and operating the airport for a short while of 15 years, Regional Airports LTD put the airport up for sale, it was purchased for £21 million by Stobart Group, also owned by the Irish regional airline Stobart Air. At that time, Stobart Group also operated Carlisle Airport. Stobart Air gained access to the airport and started flying routes to Ireland and ran charter flights from London Southend. Flybe also started operating out of SEN until 2011. London Southend Airport won the  Airport Achievement Award 2010/ 2011 from the European Regions Airline Association in 2010. On July 31st, 2011, a train station was opened next to the airport to make getting to it easier.

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Route Expansion

Before the opening of the 2012 London Summer Olympics Games, the Buckingham Group built a new terminal for the airport, and Stobart Air invested half a £500,000 for a business lounge at London Southend. An extended airport runway was opened in 2012 which included Category 1 ILS for both ends of the runway (05 and 23). In the spring of 2014 Stobart air announced that 2 Flybe- branded aircraft would be operating 6 routes out of Southend Airport for the summer. This was reduced to 1 aircraft and 4 routes in January 2015. December of 2016 came around and Flybe announced that it would operate 12 European routes from summer 2017, primarily aimed at the weekend break customers. These routes were operated by 2 Embraer E-195s. More good news for the airport came in October 2017 when Flybe added high-frequency domestic routes to the airport. The airline would now operate 18 flights per week to Manchester, 16 per week to Dublin and 10 weekly flights to Glasgow.

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In February 2018 Air Malta announced it would begin flying to Cagliari, Catania and Malta which began in May 2018, these flights ceased in January 2019. In June 2018 Ryanair announced that it would be opening a base at Southend, basing 3 aircraft there and operating 55 weekly flights to 13 destinations. Flybe started 5 daily flights to Newquay Airport from May 2019. In the same month, Loganair started flights to Aberdeen, Glasgow and Stornoway, in July to Carlisle and Derry flights were moved from Stansted to Southend in October.

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Post Covid-19

Unfortunately for Southend Airport, almost all of the operating airlines withdrew from it, Ryanair and Easyjet announced they were closing their bases in Southend. Wilderoe, Wizz Air and LoganAir stopped operating to and from Southend as well.

As of March 2022, there are only 2 routes operating in and out of Southend.

EasyJetSouthend – Malaga, Southend- Palma de Mallorca (May 2022)
Amazon AirSouthend – Rome (FCO)
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Sources

  • Simple flying
  • Wikipedia
  • southendairport.com
  • southend.gov.uk
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Published by Tantawat H

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