No matter whether you consider Southend (IATA: SEN) as a 'London airport' or not - the reborn airport has made some significant progress recently. Once the third busiest airport in London with frequent large aircraft, the airport in Essex, had long remained without much activity. However, following the Stobart Air Group's purchase of the airport in 2008 - the airport appears to have received a fresh lease of life. With easyJet planning to begin a base at the airport in April - the latest airline to start operations from the airport is AerLingus Regional.
Operated by AerArann (which in turn is soon set to become exclusively AerLingus Regional), the service will connect Dublin with Southend three times a day. The service operated with ATR 42 aircraft appears to effectively have one aircraft based at Southend for operating the route.
The schedule for the service is listed below.
EI3302 DUB 0915 - 1050 SEN AT4 D
EI3301 SEN 0700 - 0845 DUB AT4 D
EI3305 SEN 1255 - 1440 DUB AT4 D
EI3306 DUB 1510 - 1645 SEN AT4 D
EI3307 SEN 1710 - 1855 DUB AT4 D
EI3308 DUB 1920 - 2055 SEN AT4 D
The new service is well marketed by the airport as a link that provides easy connections to the USA. The Customs pre-clearance facilities in Ireland seems to have come handy! The services are also well timed for business passengers - providing them with an alternate option to the congested main airports of London.
It is also worth noting that AerArann, is partially owned by Stobart Group, the parent company of the same group which owns the airport. This seems to have helped the airport to also secure a service to Waterford operated by AerArann.
The airport is next target is to achieve a two million passenger throughput by the year 2020. The ambitions of Southend are also helped by some quick transit options for visiting the London city - which includes a train station providing quick connections to the London city. The airport's tagline of 'simply easier' too seems to be promoting the less congested nature of the airport.
Nevertheless, becoming a 'preferred' airport for London may well take a long time for the airport as it faces much established and more financially powerful competitors on its way. And it is quite likely that it will be at least a decade away before the airport can secure its first scheduled inter-continental flight - although that probably is not in the airport's plans either.
Southend certainly has a long way to go - but taking one step at a time - it seems to be preparing to regain its past glory.