A dynamic airport – at the heart of a thriving community.
London Southend Airport is one the UK’s fastest-growing regional airports, with a rich history – and an exciting future. Today, we serve almost one million business and leisure passengers every year, reaching destinations across the UK and Europe. Built on the Essex coast, we’re close to mainland Europe, but outside the increasingly congested airspace over London. Free from overcrowding on the ground and in the air, we’re just a short hop to the heart of the continent... and the heart of the capital. All of which makes flying to or from Southend simply easy.
London Southend Airport has a fascinating and varied history. From military airfield to thriving post-war passenger terminal, Southend has also faced threats of closure. Today, our future is secure under new ownership, with investment, redevelopment and growth plans in place, helping serve a regenerated Southend and expanding London Gateway.
London Southend Airport: Past
Southend Airport owes its creation to the First World War. The War Office listed the site as a potential landing ground in 1914 and the first flight followed in 1915, when Flight Sub Lieutenant A.W. Robinson took off in a Bleriot aircraft in an unsuccessful attempt to intercept a German Army Zeppelin. The Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Flying Corps both used Southend as a base during the Great War.
In 1933 the airport site was purchased by Southend Council, and was officially opened as a municipal airport in 1935.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, Southend Airport was requisitioned by the Air Ministry and all civilian flights were halted. The airport, renamed RAF Rochford, was home to a number of fighter squadrons – and a variety of nationalities. After the war ended, Southend Council took over the airport once again, with scheduled services to the Channel Islands and Ostend.
Two new runways were laid in the mid-1950s, enabling commercial flights for passengers and cargo operations, as well as the arrival of a new generation of aircraft. In the 1960s, British United Air Ferries (later British Air Ferries) became synonymous with Southend Airport, providing cross-channel services. The late 1960s also broke records: 692,686 passengers used the airport in 1967.
By the mid-1970s air traffic went into in decline, although BAF and, later, Air UK ran scheduled services to European destinations and the Channel Islands. As scheduled flights declined, engineering and maintenance became an important part of the airport’s business.
In the 1990s, Southend Council ended its long-running ownership of the airport, and sold the site to Regional Airports Ltd. Later in the decade, the go-ahead was given for a new passenger terminal and railway station.
Stobart Group acquired London Southend Airport in 2008, and swiftly applied to increase the runway by 300 metres, and upgrade navigation and lighting. A new state-of-the-art air traffic control tower and mainline railway station were opened in 2011, the same year that easyJet signed a ten-year agreement to use Southend as a new hub, and run scheduled flights to a range of European destinations
London Southend Airport: Present
2012 was the year when the new Southend Airport really took off. As the runway extension became operational, our new passenger terminal building was officially opened by Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening in March 2012. This enabled us to handle a new generation of medium capacity, high-efficiency jets for short-haul scheduled flights and holiday charters.
A brand new on-site hotel, Holiday Inn Southend, was opened in October 2012, boasting 129 rooms, 14 executive rooms, six suites and a rooftop bar and terrace with spectacular airport views.
In April 2012 a proposed extension to the new terminal at London Southend Airport was given the go-ahead by Rochford Council to help meet our target of 2 million passengers by 2020. The terminal building became 90 metres longer – with more check-in desks, security screening channels, larger Departure and Arrivals areas, and an expanded retail and hospitality offering. The enlarged terminal was officially opened in April 2014.
London Southend Airport: Future
What’s next for London Southend Airport? We’ll take you new places, with exciting routes being added to destinations across Europe... which in turn will bring new visitors to our area. Watch this space!
We’re also committed to making the airport easy to get to and easy to use, with plans in place for improved road access to our expanding airport – a dynamic hub at the heart of a thriving community.