Southend airport saw passenger numbers grow by a quarter last year to more than one million, parent company Stobart Group reported.

The group’s airline Stobart Air, operating flights on behalf of Aer Lingus and Flybe, carried 1.7 million passengers.

Stobart Group, which last month disclosed it was considering a possible takeover bid for Flybe, said in a trading update yesterday that it “continues to invest in its strategy of identifying opportunities to tackle London capacity constraints and improve passenger experience”.

Passengers using Southend airport are expected to grow further with a recent agreement for Air Malta to start three new routes from May 4 to Malta, Sardinia and Sicily.

The group intends to invest up to £40 million by 2021 in “awareness, route development, branding, marketing and airline incentive deals” Southend airport.

Meanwhile, Stobart-owned Carlisle Lake District airport is set to open for passengers for the first this summer.

Stobart Air appointed industry veteran Conor McCarthy as non-executive chairman in January.

A contract to operate the Dublin-Donegal and Dublin-Kerry Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes, under the Aer Lingus Regional brand, was renewed last month.

Stobart Group CEO Warwick Brady said: “Stobart Group has made good progress during the last year.

“We continue to see growth in our aviation division, with a 25% increase in passengers at London Southend airport, 10% increase in passenger numbers flying via Stobart Air, and we are excited to be welcoming passengers at Carlisle Lake District airport from summer of this year.”

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