I am a West London girl (OK, more accurately, mature woman of a certain age) and therefore ideally positioned for Heathrow. I have had reasonable travel experiences at Gatwick and Stansted which are equally described as ‘London’ airports even though the Oyster Card falls short of those marks. But Southend sounded a long way off – I guess because it’s on the coast and kinda Eastish.
Journey time from London Liverpool Street Station to Southend Airport is in fact only 53 minutes. That makes it a contender even for those from the Wild West. But there are a couple of considerable bonuses. First, and this is a huge advantage, the railway station is actually at the airport. No, not a ‘convenient and friendly’ shuttle-bus ride away, but actually at the airport and an honest few yards from arriving or departing planes.
The first train arrives at Southend Airport Railway Station at around 6.30am, with the last train departing at just past 11pm. There is the X30 coach service which runs through the night and taxis are also available. At peak times up to 8 trains an hour from Central London arrive at Southend Airport. Average price for a single (off-peak) ticket is £14.90 – discounts available for rail cards, travel cards and groups.
The second advantage is you won’t need parking. Public transport can often be the most economic mode of getting to an airport if you are a lone traveller or if there are only two of you. No fuel to pay and no parking fees incurred. There are, naturally, plenty of parking spaces if that is more convenient for families.
Southend Airport is new and spacious. One can grab a snack, and in future there will be more retail outlets. But it’s the lack of crowds that is appealing. It takes only a couple of minutes from the check-in and bag-drop to passport control and security. There was actually no queueing for security on my visit and that was something of a marvel. There seems to be the expectation of increased capacity so one hopes that this outstandingly speedy service will continue, as it makes such a positive difference to the travel experience of Southend Airport visitors. The airlines have a target of 700,000 additional London Southend passengers within three years.
Business and first-class passengers are not forgotten. There is a private lounge with the expected polished facilities of these retreats: hot drinks, soft drinks, alcohol, snacks and comfy chairs. I suspect that this lounge will be sought less often here than in other international airports due to the lack of crowds, but it’s a necessary bolt-hole and appreciated by the discerning flyer.
So the airport is easy to get to and pleasant when one is there; but an airport, however smart, is rarely the destination for a traveller. Where might one be going from Southend Airport? Well, there’s a surprisingly comprehensive menu of destinations in Europe and throughout the UK. France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Holland have flights from Southend. All the Flybe-branded routes are operated by Stobart Air (yes, the lorry people) and over £120 million has been invested by the Stobart Group since Southend Airport was acquired in 2008. Aer Lingus also has three daily return services between London Southend and Dublin, where travellers are able to take advantage of transatlantic connections to Boston, Chicago, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Toronto. To anyone who has had to endure the iffy ‘welcome’ by US passport and security staff on their home territory, Dublin Airport’s own US Preclearance service might offer, at least, a degree of ordinary civility.
Southend Airport might be small but it’s perfectly formed, and conveniently located. The flights allow travellers direct access to cities not served by other UK airports. Facilities are new and, at present, not under pressure. It’s a model for other airports which might like to strive to offer a better customer experience.
London Southend Airport Company Limited
Southend on Sea
Tel: +44 (0) 1702 538500
Fax: +44 (0) 1702 538501
Car Park Enquiries
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018