Could Southend Airport Become Ryanair’s Second London Hub?

Ryanair’s latest release of its summer schedule renews speculation that the carrier spies Southend airport as its new hub. 16 new routes between the Stobart aerodrome and Europe may be the start of something bigger.

Ryanair jet on taxiway
Ryanair opens 16 summer routes from Southend. Photo: Ryanair

Ryanair announced today (31/10/19) a fresh Southend manifest for the summer of 2020. The schedule sees 16 new routes opened. New destinations are Bergerac, Bucharest, Girona, Marseille, Venice Treviso and Vilnius, writes the airline.

For its new schedule, the LCC forecasts an additional 850,000 passengers.

Senior comms bod Alejandra Ruiz said of the announcement, “Since the start of our operations in London Southend in April, we have carried more than 650,000 customers. Based on this success to date we are delighted to extend our services at Southend with six new routes for summer 2020.

Our London Southend summer 2020 schedule features 16 routes in total. That will deliver 850,000 customers p.a. and support 635 jobs in London Southend Airport next year.

Early warning

The move is a reminder to Stansted Airport of Ryanair’s no-nonsense business model, dictated to by no-one. The Essex airport currently enjoys the uneasy loyalty of Ryanair. It is all-to-aware that a marginally longer commute to London and congestion overhead are regarded as disadvantageous by Ryanair’s executive.

Ryanair jet on ground
Stansted considers the possible dangers of a major withdrawal of Ryanair. Photo: Ryanair

In 2018 Ryanair’s forming a base at Southend was the first warning shot to Stansted that nothing should be taken for granted. The airport’s £100 million facelift proved irresistible to O’Leary’s team. Its nearness to Liverpool Street train station (52 minutes) proved a draw to customers.

The Irish budget airline created 13 new routes through Stansted, to sunshine cities such as Barcelona, Bilbao, Corfu and Venice. In doing so it also set to work to undermine easyJet’s Southend monopoly by offering flights to Alicante, Faro, Malaga and Palma.

Southend on board

Southend intends to ride the crest of the wave wholeheartedly. Back in 2018, on the eve of Ryanair’s arrival, the airport was more optimistic about its future than ever.

While plans for a third runway at Heathrow move slowly through parliament (and the courts), congestion over London builds. Southend’s unique position on the periphery of the London CTR allows it the popularity not enjoyed by London’s other airports.

Ryanair jet take-off
Meanwhile, Southend rides the wave of popularity. Photo: Ryanair

A year ago Warwick Brady, chief executive of the Stobart Group, told The Independent: “Passengers are increasingly turning to London Southend Airport amid the capacity crisis found elsewhere in the capital. Holidaymakers and business travellers face frustration from overcrowded airports, impacting on customer service.”

Of today’s announcement, Ryanair quotes Stobart boss Glyn Jones as saying, “We are delighted that Ryanair, Europe’s greenest airline, has decided to extend its successful relationship with London Southend with the launch of six new routes for Summer 2020, which is gearing up to be our biggest summer yet.

We are delivering a quick and easy experience for passengers, with direct rail and bus links into central London, a fast check-in and security experience and a range of shops and restaurants to enjoy.”

Aftermath

Ryanair may create a hub at Southend while retaining its Stansted foothold. That prospect looks ever more likely given the increase in operations announced in 2020. But if Ryanair decides to move wholesale from Stansted, the UK’s fourth busiest airport may well have an uphill struggle on its hands.

We have contacted Ryanair but have not yet received a reply.

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