London Southend: Simply Easier

During December of last year, I had the pleasure of passing through London Southend and receiving a tour of the airport’s fantastic facilities. The airport bases everything it does around the simple but effective slogan: ‘simply easier’. The strapline couldn’t be more apt. 

Although the airport in its current form is a new entrant to the aviation scene, Southend Airport has a deep rooted history. It originated as an airfield, in World War I and the airport was officially opened as a municipal airport on 18 September 1935. However, World War II reared its head and the airport was requisitioned by the Government’s Air Ministry – being referred to as RAF Rochford. Fast forward six decades, to 2008, and the airport was bought by the Stobart Group for £21 million. This is where the transformation began to form the best and fastest growing airport in the British capital.  Between 2008 and 2012, the airport underwent a game-changing transformation. As the replacement control tower began to operate, passenger flights returned in March 2011. In 2012, the runway extension was opened – allowing flights to destinations further afield like Lanzarote – an on-site railway station and, ultimately, the new airport terminal was opened by the Transport Secretary in February 2012.

Flybe & EasyJet are the largest clients at the airport.

To understand why Southend Airport is the Which? Best Ranked UK Airport for 4 years in a row, we have to look at its history. Whilst London Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and others have grown rapidly – they have experienced growing pains. After cobbling together new terminal buildings, all of which are now running at full capacity, most major British airports are bursting at the seams. But not Southend. London Southend was designed in 2008 – with the future in mind. It is built around the customer’s needs and conveniences. On the ground floor, you’ll find a land-side café, along with car hire desks and a handful of check-in desks. You then ascend the escalators and reach the security area. No signage is needed, because the process is so simple.

Southend has a rather ambitious target for it’s security checks. Their promise to you; pass through security in under 4 minutes. This is a pledge to customers Gatwick & Heathrow could only dream of. Sure enough, I was through security in not 4, but 2 minutes. As you exit security, you are presented with an airy mezzanine level, looking down on the departure lounge.

The departure lounge at Southend is strategically located next to the departure gates, with the passenger in mind

As if the LSA experience wasn’t relaxing enough, there is also the option to kick back in the SkyLife lounge.  While they don’t offer hot food, if you have a long layover the lounge can’t be beaten for a calm atmosphere and a feeling of exclusivity. The gates are located around the main departure lounge area. Whilst it is small, space has been found for all the necessities of modern travel. The obligatory airport WHSmith shop is present and so is a Duty Free section. The stylishly designed Bourgee (which I’m told is a favourite among TOWIE “stars”!) offers an inventive change from the usual airport eatery.

The swish Bourgee set-up!

Next to this is the Lakers Bar & Restaurant – inspired by the famous aviation entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker, whose Southend Airport connections go back to the 50s and 60s, with operators like Channel Air Bridge, when the airport was the third busiest in the UK. In tribute to Sir Freddie, you’ll find the walls of Lakers lined with images that recall the golden age of flight.

LSA’s biggest asset, though, is the on-site railway station. It is located literally steps from the airport terminal and offers up to eight trains per hour to central London. Liverpool Street is 53 minutes away – and you could reach East London in Stratford in just 44 minutes! From here, you can connect onto the vast TfL network (including Overground & Underground) and step off in central London. Anecdotally, I’ve heard people say “Southend Airport is in Essex – not London”. Firstly, none of the major London airports – apart from London City – are actually in London. Secondly, catching the Tube from Heathrow to Paddington takes as long as the transit from Southend. It is clear that this railway station essentially allowed Southend to call itself a London airport. When I spoke to the Marketing Manager about Southend’s status as a “London Airport”, the railway connection was the first thing he mentioned. The train has certainly been instrumental in Southend’s success.

easyJet on apron (c) London Southend Airport, 2017.jpg
EasyJet begun a 10-year partnership with LSA in 2011.

This year, Southend will welcome even more growth. After launching connections to Manchester, Dublin & Glasgow in October, Flybe will offer a new connection to the Belgian city of Antwerp from March. The new flights to Manchester & Dublin were crucial in allowing the population of the South East to avoid London altogether, instead flying from Southend and connecting to long haul flights from Dublin (using US Border Pre-Clearance) and Manchester. EasyJet will base another aircraft, launching flights to Bordeaux, Prague, Dubrovnik & Pula, and only today three new routes were announced with Air Malta. As London’s capacity crisis only grows, I hope London Southend can realise its potential with even more growth, while keeping it’s gold standard in customer service. I would have no hesitation about recommending Southend to anyone who is exasperated with the chaos of major airports.

Southend continues to attract new airlines, with it’s top-rated customer service

Southend Airport is also experiencing unprecedented growth; it is now considered to be the capital’s fastest growing airport. Flybe, operated by Stobart Air, and easyJet, already cover 34 popular domestic and European destinations including Amsterdam, Groningen, Prague, Budapest, Cologne, Tenerife, Lanzarote and Ibiza – all from London’s most punctual and most customer-friendly airport. However, in the announcement of a new partnership, Southend will offer it’s passengers access to three Mediterranean destinations. Air Malta will launch three destinations from London Southend, beginning this summer.

A new partnership will allow Southend to grow even more.

Specifically, they will operate:

  • Twice-weekly from Southend to Cagliari (Sardinia)
  • Twice-weekly from Southend to Catania (Sicily)
  • Three-weekly from Southend to Valetta (Europe’s 2018 Capital of Culture) on the island of Malta

The flights are already bookable on Air Malta’s website and start from just £35. Dr Charles Mangion, chairman of Air Malta believes these flights will not only benefit British travellers, but also Maltese, Sicilian and Sardinian tourists visiting London. Glyn Jones, the CEO of London Southend,  looks forward to providing an excellent service for it’s new customers. Ultimately, this is a big occasion for London Southend. They are benefitting from the endless capacity crisis amongst London’s larger airports and providing a real alternative – expanding their route portfolio.

 

Fare Finder: February 2018

YOUR GUIDE TO THE BEST VALUE AIRFARES FOR THE MONTH AHEAD!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. February 14th as we all know is Valentine’s Day, so this months Fare Finder is dedicated to flights for short romantic getaways. (Excellent for those of you out there who haven’t found the perfect gift for your partner yet!)

PARIS, FRANCE:

We couldn’t start off a Valentine’s themed Fare Finder without including Paris at the top of our list, could we? With the picture perfect Eiffel Tower setting the back drop for the French Capital, what could be more romantic than a stroll down the Champs-Élysées whilst watching the sun set?

This one is for our Irish readers, with direct flights from Dublin provided by Dutch owned low cost airline, Transavia. Understandably Paris is very popular at this time of year, and the flight prices reflect this. Nevertheless for just £113 per person return, you could be enjoying a 3 night break in this wonderful city. The link to Transavia’s website can be found here.

Paris’ most recognisable land mark, the Eiffel Tower dominates the city’s skyline!
Edinburgh, SCOTLAND:

Perhaps a surprising inclusion on this list, but Edinburgh has a lot to offer that may not always be obvious at first glance. With everything from candle lit dinners to stargazing at the cities observatory, there is no shortage of activities to keep you entertained during your time here. Lovers of the great outdoors will feel right at home here, with Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat offering superb views of the city for those who reach the top.

Flying from Bristol, easyJet are willing to whisk you away on a 2 night stay in Scotland for just £65 per person return.  Readers living in the South East of the country who prefer a London airport as their departure point, the easyJet stronghold of Luton is offering a return ticket for £66 per person. As usual, easyJet can be reached at their website www.easyjet.com.

Edinburgh as seen from the top of Calton Hill
london, england:

Most will think that the River Thames would be a no go in February, but they’d be wrong to think that. A Thames Dinner Cruise would be a fantastic way to end your 2 night stay in the city, taking in world famous landmarks such as Big Ben and The London Eye whilst enjoying a live band playing in the background. If the thought of sailing doesn’t float your boat, then evenings can be spent enjoying a West End show following a day of Oxford Street shopping!

Yet again easyJet are offering cheap flights into London. This time anyone fancying a last minute trip to London from Edinburgh can reach the capital for just £71 per person return. These flights are based on flying into Luton, so who knows, you may even see some of your fellow Fare Finder readers heading up to Scotland when your flight arrives. For easyJet’s website click here.

 

Reykjavik, iceland:

Our last offering is most definitely a wildcard. Perhaps not necessarily a destination that most would assume is a romantic destination, but instead one that is filled with activity and exploration. Much like Edinburgh, couples who feel at home whilst experiencing what Mother Nature has to offer, will certainly not be disappointed with Iceland‘s offerings. With lava tunnels of extinct volcanoes waiting to be experienced and tours of the Game of Thrones filming locations allowing you to see where the action happened, travelers heading north and braving the cold will not leave feel unsatisfied.

Another reason to feel satisfied is the price of the flights. Departing with TUI from London Gatwick, you will almost certainly have a smile on your face after having paid just £49 per person return for your flights. What’s even better is that this fare is based on a 7 night stay in the land of Ice and Fire, giving you ample opportunity to discover one of the worlds most scenic countries! Flights are bookable through the TUI website.

The Northern Lights draws thousands of tourists to Iceland each year
in next months fare finder:

We will be  looking to find you affordable flights to jet you off during the Easter school holidays.

 

Please note that all pricing and availability is correct at the time of publish and is subject to change. This is an independent article and is no way endorsed by any airline or tourist board.