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My day out at London Southend Airport!

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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. Can you not exchange euros at the airport? I also wonder if they actually stock some of those obscure currencies in that photo.

    Southend airport doesn’t seem that bad, especially when compared to flying low cost from Luton or Stansted. Would give it a try if it was significantly cheaper than the other 3 airports.

    • Lady London says:

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

  2. Richard says:

    We have used Southend a few times now for flights on Easyjet especially now that Stansted is so busy. It generally works well with good parking and quick access to the terminal and it’s never been overcrowded. However, as you found, security can be very slow also service at the larger cafe rather indifferent – the last time we were there for an early flight wanting some breakfast and at 7am they had run out of most items.

  3. Philip says:

    Actually Rob, if you get off the main routes to LHR – M4, M25, A4, etc – and on to the smaller surrounding roads, you will be surprised at how rural the area is, and how many horses you will spot enjoying the freedom to roam their pastures.

  4. I love Southend. Two minutes walk to the car park and off you go. As one who cannot understand the FF obsession with airports, it is great.

  5. 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.

    • Choons says:

      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!

  6. 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…

  7. 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.

  8. Swissy says:

    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.

  9. Thanks for the good review.

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

  10. 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

  11. 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.

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