Deserted London Airport Targets Return of Flights Next Summer
London Southend Airport, devoid of flights since Ryanair Holdings Plc pulled out last month, is making a push to find new airline tenants for next year’s summer season.
Owner Esken Ltd. expects to announce the restoration of services by the end of February, Chairman David Shearer said Wednesday. The terminal previously pushed back its planned reopening to next April from late this year.
Southend is the smallest of six airports that style themselves London hubs after rebranding in 2012. While it’s also the most distant from the U.K. capital, Esken is seeking to make a virtue of its vacant runway slots, competitive pricing, uncrowded terminal and rail links direct to the City financial district.
“I think we have a pretty compelling offering,” Shearer said in an interview. “One of the benefits is that we can be nimble.” The company is in talks with a number of airlines about next summer, he said.
Southend, an hour east of London by train from Liverpool Street station, catered to about 2 million passengers a year prior to the coronavirus crisis as it pursued ambitious plans to rival the discount hubs of Stansted and Luton.
The airport has seen several false starts in the past, with the pandemic upending its latest plans as Flybe, Britain’s biggest domestic airline, folded in early 2020 and EasyJet Plc, the hub’s longest-standing major tenant, exited later in the year after almost a decade of flights.
Esken turned to Carlyle Group to help safeguard Southend’s future, securing a 125 million-pound ($170 million) loan in August from an infrastructure fund of the private-equity firm, convertible into a 30% stake in the airport.
Wizz Air Holdings Plc still has a notional base at Southend but isn’t due to resume flights until next summer, a spokesman for the airport said.
Esken, based in Warrington, England, and previously known as Stobart Group, also has a renewable-energy division and owns Carlisle Lake District Airport.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.