My day out at London Southend Airport!

Back in the 1960s, apparently, Southend was London’s official ‘third airport’.  The growth of Stansted sidelined it until 2008 when it was purchased by the Stobart Group.  They have added a new terminal, a new control building, extended the runway and – most importantly – added a railway station.  Services have now been running for four years.

I had been keen to take a look for some time and finally decided to give it a go.

There were two ways of doing this.  One was to start a lengthy dialogue about arranging access with the PR team at the airport which would have gone on for weeks, including the issues involved in getting me an airside pass.  The second option was to pay £37 for a one-way easyJet flight to Paris, returning on a BA Avios redemption to Heathrow.  I went for Plan B.

Trains to Southend Airport run from London Liverpool Street, stopping also at Stratford.  It takes roughly 50 minutes which is only marginally longer than Stansted Express.  There are 4+ trains per hour, which means the service is also more frequent that Stansted Express.  A one way ticket was £16.80 and I got an entire Standard Class carriage to myself.

Southend Airport review

Note the horse in the photo below.  You don’t get that at Heathrow.

Southend Airport review

It takes literally 60 seconds to get from the platform to the terminal building.  It is even quicker than Southampton Airport.  In terms of easy access you really can’t get better.  As a new station, it is also equipped with decent lifts.

Southend Airport review

At one end of the terminal are a modest number of check-in desks:

Southend Airport review

If you walk to the other end of the building, which takes under a minute, you get to the Arrivals area which has a landside cafe:

Southend Airport review

Security was empty with just four people ahead of me.  However, it still took around 10 minutes to get through due to a couple of numpty passengers ahead of me.  The security staff were being a little aggressive given the modest number of passengers and the fact that no flights were departing for over an hour.  Slightly worryingly, I walked through the metal detector with a pocket full of coins and it didn’t go off.

I strongly recommend that you do not change money at the airport:

Southend Airport review

The airside facilities are more than adequate.  There is a restaurant and bar:

Southend Airport review

and two shops – duty free and a WH Smith – plus a smaller cafe:

Southend Airport review

I headed back up the stairs to the SkyLife Lounge where I used my Priority Pass to gain access.  It is not a Lounge Club member unfortunately.

(This article will become part of our series of reviews of airport lounges across the UK.  You see all of the reviews here.)

Southend Airport review

Given that I was the only guest, it was perfectly big enough!

Southend Airport review

I was there for the end of breakfast, which meant a box of cereal, yoghurt, porridge, pastries and mini-muffins.  The cereal was replaced by bags of crisps whilst I was there.  No fresh food appeared but the receptionist came round and offered me a sandwich – unfortunately I was about to leave at that point.

Southend Airport review

There is plenty to drink, especially spirits.  You don’t see them in the picture as they only appeared when breakfast was cleared.  There was a bottle of red wine open but no white to be seen.

And that was that. The only thing that ruined the experience was the boarding process for my easyJet flight.  Monday was a cold and rainy day but, after our boarding passes were checked at the gate, we were sent outside and made to queue up on the tarmac.  We were technically under cover but the wind was blowing the rain at me for around 10 minutes.

Southend Airport review

I can’t complain about easyJet, who do what they do very well.  I had seat 1C, prebooked at an extra charge, and the rest of the row was empty.  There is no bulkhead as there was no wardrobe so I had all the legroom in the world.  £6.50 got me a hot bacon baguette – albeit a little soggy – plus a coffee and free KitKat as I appeared to have triggered a ‘meal deal’ with the first two items.  As far as I’m concerned, the quicker BA launches ‘buy on board’ in short haul Economy the better.

Southend Airport review

Conclusion

Southend Airport is a great little facility.  If you have easy access to Stratford or Liverpool Street then it is incredibly easy to access.  With just one departure per hour on average, it is never going to be overcrowded.

The fact that it has a perfectly acceptable Priority Pass lounge as well is an added bonus.  I am surprised that it is not with Lounge Club too as it is not exactly overcrowded.  If you have the chance to choose it for a short-break at some point I am happy to recommend it.

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Comments

  1. Horses at Heathrow: take the right hand door on leaving the Tube at Hatton Cross, cross the A30 (with care), and there is a field with horses in.

    • Correct me if I am wrong but I think I saw sheep at LHR too recently.

      • Sheep are visible from the M25 around J13-14 and have a good view of T5 and takeoff / landing

      • Yep. There’s fields nearby (well, within 500m of T5) with sheep in.

    • Johnnycl says:

      I’ve seen horses in the field/wasteland adjacent to the LHR Hilton Garden Inn!

  2. Oh! Matron! says:

    You don’t get horses at heathrow? Oh yes you do!

    https://www.google.com/maps/@51.4647183,-0.4253302,126m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Right by hatton cross tube, next to the field where the plane spotters stand, there’s a field, and has been for years, full of gypsy ponies 🙂

    • Tilly71 says:

      And they actually have an urban farm nearby, almost next door to Dukes Green Tesco.

      • There are some fairly noticeable horses lurking around the T5 lounges too…

  3. Andrew H says:

    Thanks for the review and pics! I am currently trying to fly from every UK airport with scheduled passenger services and Southend is still on my ‘to do’ list.

    If you get the tube to Stratford you can pick up the Southend Airport train for £13 approx, a small saving.

    The nearby Holiday Inn has a rooftop restaurant with good runway views apparently.

    • Lady London says:

      Luton used to look like that before Easyjet moved in there in a big way.

  4. Yes great views from the HI
    Worth a couple of hours there for lunch, plus the car park fee gets refunded for guests/diners.
    The Red Arrows quite often overnight there for the London displays

    • Lady London says:

      I stayed there 3 weeks ago. It’s right adjacent to the airport and opposite the entrance to the airport’s own long term car park. The carpark was completely full b y 7pm on a Wednesday even though there didn’t seem to be anything in particular on. This Holiday Inn appeared to be very well run with staff trying hard. I would definitely stay there again.

      Southend also has a nice hugeish Waitrose with interesting John Lewis summer-type domestic departments too – I was really impressed.

  5. Thanks for the good review.

    And I assume raffles, you flew back to heathrow in Club Europe? 🙂

  6. Can you do a review of DSA my local on flybe? I was there yesterday in an official capacity and went airside looks much better than it used to and it’s now got an exec lounge but never got to see it.

    OT lounge club directory sucks compared to others granted its free with my Amex gold for two visits I find most places I’ve visited in the past month I can’t use it. Not possible at cork, Doncaster or jersey. All have lounges aswell

  7. If we are on the subject of Easyjet then just to share that I was delayed for 1.5hrs at Gatwick on Sunday. Gatwick systems went down just before boarding, so boarding passes had to be checked off by pen and paper. So, boarding took half an hour. They then did a head count of the passengers, which was done 3 times, and didn’t match up with the paperwork (1 passenger too many). This resulted in an additional 1 hour delay whilst 4 staff sat on the floor of the airbridge going through the paperwork again and again then checking everyone’s boarding pass again. After an hour, still stumped, they did another headcount, and this time they counted the correct number of passengers! The cabin crew manager looked like she was going to cry/blow up/walk off the plane (she had been a total pro up to that point!). Not so bad for me whose weekend in London consisted of eating food, but felt sorry for the surprisingly high number of marathon runners who were on the flight!

    • Reminds me of an EasyJet flight 2-3 years back where we had 1 passenger too many. They identified her soon enough as obviously 2 people were trying to sit in the same seat (it was a full flight). So she got ejected. Talking to the cabin girl, it turned out this passenger had missed her flight the previous day, so just turned up the next day with her boarding pass. Amazingly, she actually got on the plane. Hope you have sorted out your systems, Luton Airport & EasyJet – she should never have got past boarding pass scan/ boarding.

  8. Michael says:

    “numpty passengers” 😀

    • These things matter! Unfortunately on our route to the place in the sun the planes are stuffed with similar. They don’t understand how to make loading the plane nice & efficient. So when you’re getting on you are delayed far too long by people just taking far too long doing stuff that takes us 25% as long – how long do you need to remove outer wear & stuff a bag up on the rack? They often take over a minute. Then on de-loading at the other end, it’s mirror image all dithering / dilatory numpties plus they are not exactly polite in terms of queuing and letting people out in correct order. On a cheapo flight to same destination they always commonly disregard the regs on cabin baggage ie try to smuggle through massive bags & more than the number limit so that always leads to delays at gate.

      All very frustrating – which is why a calming beer or 3 is usually in order 🙂

  9. TGLoyalty says:

    Just had an email from Virgin doubling the shares ISA bonus from 6k to 12k

    Might give it a go for that many

    • Get more for your money when you invest in a Virgin Money Stocks and Shares ISA in the new tax year. For a limited time only, you could earn double bonus miles between 28 April and 26 June 2016. The offer is available for a minimum investment of £75 per month by direct debit (consecutively for a minimum of 6 months), or a lump sum investment of £1,000 or more, held in the account for a minimum of 6 months. It’s open to online applications only and limited to 12,000 bonus miles per customer.
      https://flyingclubhub.virgin-atlantic.com/offers/double-virgin-money

      • 12K is quite interesting – £75 x 6 = £450, your downside risk is ‘contained’ – ie if you invest in the least risky option, then -10% is unlikely over your 6 months.

        So you are not risking more than about £50 but you will certainly gain 12K miles.

        More likely to be a tenner down or so at worst, a tenner up at best (if you go for low risk investment).

        • We don’t actively collect Virgin miles – got 100K sitting there I keep going, remnant of a company Amex card – but this is all the excuse I needed to open an a/c for my wife as well 🙂

          24,000 Virgin miles – possibly nearly free – go grab’em, boy! lol

          • Genghis says:

            Good spot Harry but does your method yield 12k miles? The offer says, “limited to 12,000 bonus miles”. What does the ‘limited’ actually mean?

          • TGLoyalty says:

            imagine it means you can’t have this 12k if you have already signed up for a shares ISA this tax year and received 6k

    • Interesting – I wonder if that is because pre-Eu ref uncertainty has discouraged people from investing? I was planning to wait until post-ref to give everything a chance to settle before opening one of these, but I’m quite tempted now. Would be doing it purely for the miles so only leaving it open for the required 6 months.

  10. There is fast track there but not clearly marked just bypass the rope area and walk to the front on the right hand side.
    In the mornings the lounge fills up and many people are turned away, and the quality has gone downhill a lot over time.
    I know a lot of people who now avoid Southend because of the easy jet experience there and the poor customer service of airport staff ( security control appear to be on a constant go slow may be I am synical but think more people pay speedy boarding to avoid this but it then makes the others wait longer.
    HI bar on the top floor does have great views

  11. I can’t believe you didn’t stop by for a cuppa Raffles! You can see my house from the tarmac. I should put a landmark in the garden so HFP readers know where I am. Maybe HFP would like the advertising space?
    I’ve flown from Southend a few times now. Always a pleasure. The 5 minute walk home is a bonus. The only thing that stops us using it more is the Southend – Tenerife route is winter only. Otherwise I think we would be there and back 5 times a year!
    Be careful when dropping off/picking up. There have been stories of people being whacked with an hour’s parking for going over the 5 minutes free (one person took the barrier apart to get out without paying). Park in the McDonalds instead. It’s 2 minutes walk away.

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    My day out at London Southend Airport