Annual report reveals 93% drop in travellers, but thriving cargo operation and heavy investment point to bright future
Despite a two million deficit in passenger numbers due to Covid-19, Southend International Airport has reported some positives due to its continued development.
That was the message from its annual report, which also covered the impact that the pandemic has had on operations and flights amongst restrictions.
Glyn Jones, chief executive officer of Stobart Aviation, indicated that passenger numbers had decreased by 93% to an all-time low due to the effects of the pandemic.
Jones also said that the announcement of easyJet closing its base at the gateway had a heavy operational impact on the airport. This was a complete reversal on the previous year when the airport recorded its busiest year on record with over two million passengers.
Despite this, development at the airport still continued in other aspects with adaptations to controlled airspace, departure routes and satellite navigation to ensure noise abatement and air quality was adhered to. Air quality continued to be a success at Southend as the airport fell well below government targets year on year.
In addition, the airport’s online platforms have seen improvement. Accessibility of booking on the website and up to date news via social media have been adapted to best suit the passengers’ needs.
Some operations thrived during the pandemic. International global cargo became a vital component to keeping the airport open. This element helped support hundreds of local jobs, in the airport’s cargo centre, within the wider airport operation, and the external supply chain – not to mention the contribution of import and export of PPE during the pandemic to those who needed it most.
The airport is also looking to developments in the future after being awarded a Port of Infrastructure (PiF) funding of £2.1 million which is expected to ensure that the new requirements for import and export around Brexit are addressed effectively.
To add to this, the airport is implementing plans to improve access via public transport. Rail links are undergoing constant improvement with Greater Anglia rail services promising £1.4 billion of investment into the area. This should see new trains reduce the journey time to and from London to under 50 minutes.
New X30 bus services will also be reintroduced to match the number of people traveling from Southend Chelmsford and Stansted as the pandemic eases.
After new pandemic restrictions were put in place Southend Airport have introduced a Gold Standard, not for profit, private testing facility. This allows passengers to test at their own leisure at the airport before departure.
Initiatives such as this meant that in 2020, a London Southend Airport customer survey revealed 90% of people using the airport since the end of lockdown rated its safety measures as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’.
More positive news came in July 2020 when the airport was awarded the Prestige award for ‘Airport of the Year – South England’. The panel for the award based their decision upon key areas such as service excellence, innovative practices, sustainable methods of working as well as active improvement during the pandemic.