London Southend Airport, devoid of flights since Ryanair pulled out in October, is making a push to find new airline tenants for 2022’s summer season.

Owner Esken expects to announce the restoration of services by the end of February, chair David Shearer said on Wednesday. The terminal previously pushed back its planned reopening to April 2022 from late 2021. 

Southend is the smallest of six airports that style themselves as London hubs after rebranding in 2012. While it’s also the most distant from the UK capital, Esken is seeking to make a virtue of its vacant runway slots, competitive pricing, uncrowded terminal and rail links direct to the City financial district.

“I think we have a pretty compelling offering,” Shearer said. “One of the benefits is that we can be nimble.” The company is in talks with a number of airlines about next summer, he said.

Southend, an hour east of London by train from Liverpool Street station, catered to about 2-million passengers a year before the coronavirus crisis as it pursued ambitious plans to rival the discount hubs of Stansted and Luton.

The airport has experienced several false starts in the past, with the pandemic upending its latest plans as Flybe, Britain’s biggest domestic airline, folded in early 2020 and easyJet, the hub’s longest-standing major tenant, exited later in the year after almost a decade of flights.

Esken turned to Carlyle Group to help safeguard Southend’s future, securing a £125m loan in August from an infrastructure fund of the private-equity firm, convertible into a 30% stake in the airport.

Wizz Air still has a notional base at Southend but isn’t due to resume flights until summer 2022, a spokesperson for the airport said.

Esken, based in Warrington, England, and previously known as Stobart Group, also has a renewable-energy division and owns Carlisle Lake District Airport.

Bloomberg. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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