Aer Arann to begin Southend flights under deal with Stobart

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Irish regional carrier Aer Arann is to begin services from London Southend Airport to Waterford and Galway in Ireland, under its operating agreement with the airport's owner Stobart Group.

Aer Arann will operate twice-daily flights on the two routes from 27 March.

UK haulage company Stobart Group last year agreed to invest €2.5 million ($3.4 million) in Aer Arann as part of a five-year deal under which the airline agreed to launch flights from Southend.

Stobart agreed to acquire Southend from Regional Airports in December 2008, and has since been working towards attracting commercial airlines to the facility.

The airport is in the process of extending its runway to enable it to accommodate Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft.

Stobart says that construction projects are on target to make Southend "a fully-functioning regional airport by 2012". It is aiming to increase annual passenger numbers to 2 million by 2020.

The only commercial airline currently serving Southend is UK regional carrier Flybe with seasonal flights to Jersey.