A former sales director at London City airport has been hired by rival Southend airport to help boost passenger levels.

Bernard Lavelle’s career at London City saw passenger throughput rise from 100,000 when he first joined in 1988 to 4.5 million when he left at the end of last year.

He has been recruited by Southend airport as aviation business development director to support its continued growth.

The Essex airport handled more than one million passengers last year and has ambitions to double that level in 2018.

Glyn Jones, chief executive of Southend airport owner Stobart Aviation, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Bernard onto the senior team.

“His 30 years of experience has given him a unique understanding of the interactions between airports and airlines, and he will certainly be key to further accelerating our growth this year.”

Lavelle added: “It’s not hard to see the huge potential for London Southend. With one million passengers a year, the plan is to double that number over the next 12 months.

“Ultimately, the airport has capacity for ten million which would go some way in alleviating the dire shortage of space in the south-east.”

He added: “This is a terrific opportunity for me to make a difference, and ensure that airlines understand and take advantage of what London Southend has to offer passengers – comfort, speed of access, few queues and a friendly experience.”