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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.

Comments (69)

  • JK says:

    Those FX spreads are obscene! The worst I have ever seen anywhere.

    • zsalya says:

      I agree that with obscene – about 20% either side.
      Almost as bad as I have seen offered by Gatwick Express machines for paying in Euros – forget DCC levels – they were offering 0.70 when the market was 0.85.

      Weirdly, none of the currencies displayed are for destinations one can fly to from Southend – moneycorp presumably select USD and PLN at the top nationally, not per location.

  • zsalya says:

    If you had bought an Easyjet Flexi ticket then you could have used Fast Track to avoid the numpties in the security queue.

    Arguably arrival is even more time-saving – I once did ten minutes from touchdown to train.
    As with all minor airports routes get added over time but also taken away.
    Berlin has recently dropped off the list.

    • Rob says:

      There was no Fast Track security, only one lane open.

    • Kathy says:

      I live in Southend – a ten minute walk from Southend Victoria train station – and have used the airport a couple of times. My record from wheels-down on the runway to sitting on my living room sofa is 30 minutes!

      It’s lovely to get home so quickly. It’s a shame the flight schedule and destinations aren’t handier – at one point Aer Lingus was flying to Dublin, but that slot got sold to Flybe and then scrapped before I had a chance to try it out.

      • Rob says:

        I can’t believe a slot was ‘sold’ given the current one flight per hour!

        • Kathy says:

          I don’t know the technicalities – sold or traded or leased or whatever. We had I believe around a year of very reasonable Aer Lingus flights to Dublin that allowed you to pre-clear immigration and connect on to US-bound flights, then Flybe took over the route, the prices were jacked up to ridiculous levels (£hundreds each way), and then the route cancelled due to ‘poor demand’. I guess Flybe didn’t want the competition for their flights out of LCY.

  • zsalya says:

    Is it my imagination or is the non-white colour on the radar sweeper (not shown here) more orangey rather than the normal red?
    Perhaps influenced by the dominant airline there??

  • Lumma says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Louie says:

    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.

  • David says:

    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.

      • Gavin says:

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

      • Ynox says:

        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!

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