Europe’s biggest budget airline has announced a new base at Southend Airport in Essex – taking on its arch-rival, easyJet, and sounding a warning to Stansted, its main hub.
Ryanair will base three aircraft at Southend from summer 2019, with nearly 60 weekly flights to 13 destinations in eight countries.
Since a £100m project to turn Southend into a 21st-century airport, easyJet has established a base there.
Most of the Ryanair routes are to sunshine destinations. Four are to destinations already served from Southend by easyJet: Alicante, Faro, Malaga and Palma. Competition between the two airlines could trigger a fares war.
Ryanair is adding holiday services to Reus (described as “Barcelona”) and Bilbao in Spain, Brest in France, the Greek island of Corfu and Venice. Four city links are also on the new route map from the Essex airport: Dublin, Milan Bergamo, Kosice in Slovakia and Cluj in Romania.
David O’Brien, chief commercial officer of Ryanair, said: “We are pleased to add London Southend Airport to our UK base network.
“Ryanair guests travelling to and from London and the Essex area can now enjoy low fares on a choice of 13 routes through London Southend’s exceptionally passenger friendly terminal.”
The move also signals a warning to Stansted Airport that Ryanair is prepared to grow elsewhere. Trains from Southend Airport’s own railway station to London Liverpool Street take 52 minutes, only slightly longer than those to Stansted.
Southend Airport, owned by the Stobart Group, has long said it intends to capitalise on the congestion at other London airports, while waiting for a third runway at Heathrow.
Warwick Brady, chief executive of the Stobart Group, said: “Passengers are increasingly turning to London Southend Airport amid the capacity crisis found elsewhere in the capital, where holidaymakers and business travellers face frustration from overcrowded airports, impacting on customer service.”