EasyJet to open base at London Southend

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UK budget carrier EasyJet is to open a base at London Southend Airport in April 2012 and has entered into a partnership with the airport's owner, Stobart Group.

EasyJet will base three Airbus A319s at Southend and will serve 10 European destinations, including Barcelona, Faro and Ibiza.

Stobart Group chief executive Andrew Tinkler told ATI in May 2010 that Southend was looking to attract new operators ahead of the completion of its runway extension at the end of 2011.

The airport secured government approval in March 2010 to extend its 1,605m (5,265ft) runway by 300m to enable it to accommodate Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft.

A new terminal will open at the airport in autumn 2011, and a new railway station with links to London's Stratford and Liverpool Street stations is scheduled to open this summer. A new control tower is also now operational.

EasyJet expects passenger numbers at Southend to reach about 800,000 in the first year. The UK southeast coast airport will be the carrier's 20th base and its 11th base in the UK.

The airport's managing director, Alastair Welch, said the partnership with Easyjet "puts us right on track for our target of serving over two million passengers annually".

Stobart Group agreed to acquire Southend in December 2008 from Regional Airports for £16 million ($25.8 million) plus a further £5 million depending on the airport's future performance.

Earlier this year, Irish regional carrier Aer Arann began flights from Southend to Waterford and Galway in Ireland, after Stobart Group agreed to invest €2.5 million ($3.5 million) in the carrier as part of a five-year deal under which the airline agreed to launch flights from the airport.