Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stobarts Diversification at Southend Airport Looks to Pay Off

Intermodal Groups Airport Gets New Customer
Shipping News Feature

UK – The Stobart Group’s move into airport operations raised eyebrows in some quarters of the freight community when it was announced in 2008 that they intended to buy Southend Airport – now rechristened London Southend - in the South-East of England.

The group, more famous for their iconic trucks and logistics activities, had taken on a lot with an airport that needing a large amount of renovation work, including extending the runway and the building of a new terminal, flight tower and railway station to begin to be attractive to passenger airlines, the target market.

Due to their core business, the company faced many objections from local residents on the grounds that as a freight business they would surely be using the airport as an air freight hub, a charge they denied.

However, the announcement today from easyJet, one of the UK’s biggest passenger airlines, that they have signed a ten year contract with Stobarts to use Southend for flights would seem to bear out the logistics groups decision to diversify into this sector.

easyJet will commence operations in April 2012, in advance of the London Olympics, initially basing three aircraft and 150 staff at the airport and expecting to deliver around 800,000 passengers per annum. This will increase the annualised throughput at the airport to nearly 1 million passengers.

Initially, easyJet intends to service around 10 holiday and business destinations (including Barcelona, Faro and Ibiza) and the airline expects to develop further routes over the coming years, with up to seventy flights a week to various destinations expected.

Stobart Group CEO, Andrew Tinkler, said:

“We are delighted to announce our partnership with easyJet. This supports and validates our strategy to develop London Southend as a fast and friendly airport serving London and the South East. Our target is to achieve in excess of two million passengers and this agreement allows us to have continued confidence in this target”.

Catherine Lynn, easyJet Customer and Revenue Director, agreed with his assessment, stating that:

“We are excited to be opening London Southend as easyJet’s 20th base airport. The airport is in a fantastic location just outside London with a fast rail link into the city. This is a unique opportunity to offer a world class customer experience, with passengers able to get from the plane to the train in 15 minutes.

“Through offering easy and affordable travel, we expect the new routes to appeal to customers in Essex and London looking for a convenient new departure point for many top European destinations. We also believe that the European city links will attract a high number of inbound business and leisure passengers to London next year.”