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EasyJet Adds Fourth London Hub in Southend to Reap Olympics Boom

EasyJet Plc will establish a fourth London hub at Southend airport east of the U.K. capital as it seeks to tap leisure trips to the Olympic Games and business travel to the U.K. capital’s financial district.

EasyJet will begin selling tickets to 10 destinations from Southend next month, with flights starting in April, Customer and Revenue Director Catherine Lynn said on a conference call. The Olympics commence three months later, centered on London’s East End, which is served by a railway line from the airport.

Europe’s second-biggest discount airline will initially base three Airbus SAS A319 aircraft in Southend, aiming to attract 800,000 passengers a year. It will offer a mix of tourist and business routes, Lynn said, with the first including Barcelona, the holiday island of Ibiza and Faro in Portugal.

“We expect the new routes to appeal to customers in Essex and London looking for a convenient new departure point,” Lynn said. “We also believe that the European city links will attract a high number of inbound business and leisure passengers.”

The new base, located 54 miles (87 kilometers) east of London, will employ about 150 people, she said, and EasyJet plans to “rationalize” its operations at London Stansted airport, which also serves north and east London, accordingly.

The carrier also serves Britain’s biggest city from Gatwick to the south and Luton, where it is based, to the northwest.

Olympic Shuttle

EasyJet may also provide an Olympic shuttle service to Southend from some of its European bases, including Madrid, Berlin and Amsterdam, Lynn said. The carrier’s contract with U.K. logistics operator Stobart Group Ltd., the airport’s owner, spans 10 years, the two companies said in a statement.

Stobart is upgrading Southend’s infrastructure to boost its credentials as a London terminal. A modern control tower went on line in March, a train station 100 paces from the airport opens next month, a new terminal building is due for completion this fall and a runway extension will be built over the winter.

The rail line links Southend with Stratford, close to the Olympic stadium, in 44 minutes and with Liverpool Street in London’s financial district six minutes later, Stobart Chief Executive Officer Andrew Tinkler said on the conference call.

The swift journey times mean the airport may compete with London City, located six miles from the banking hub.

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