The part-owner of regional airline Stobart Air today revealed that the carrier returned to profitability in 2015.
Stobart Group, which has a 45% stake in the airline, also owns Southend airport (pictured) and plans to develop Carlisle airport to handle commercial flights.
Stobart Air flew more than 1.4 million passengers in the year to February 29 as the group’s aviation interests saw underlying profits [EBITDA] rise by £900,000 to £2.3 million.
Group chairman, Iain Ferguson, revealed that the company aims to build passenger numbers at Southend airport to 2.5 million a year by 2018 following the appointment of a new management team led by former Luton airport boss Glyn Jones.
Stobart chief executive, Andrew Tinkler, said: “Our aviation team has identified airlines and sustainable route networks that complement our catchment areas.
“They continue to work closely with existing and new airlines to create additional routes to enable us to achieve 2.5 million annual passengers by 2018.
“Our airline investment, Stobart Air, flew over 1.4 million passengers during and continues to grow.
“The airline returned to profitability in 2015 and continues to work with London Southend airport and Carlisle Lake District airport as well as other airports to create further route development opportunities.”
He added: “As expected, passenger numbers at London Southend airport were lower than prior years, as we worked with easyJet under a new long-term contract to enhance load factors and yields with a view to growing volumes again in the near future.
“The experienced and credible new management team led by CEO Glyn Jones are now embedded and are in talks with a number of major operators regarding sustainable new routes to achieve our growth plans.
“Our target remains to serve 2.5m passengers a year by 2018. The airport has been built with excellent transport links to London and sufficient capacity to handle up to 5 million passengers, double our near-term target, providing a platform for growth well beyond 2018.
“Glyn is well placed to deliver this target based on his track record of building passenger growth when he was managing director at Luton airport.”
Grant funding has been secured for development of infrastructure works that will help support airlines to operate from Carlisle to Southend, Dublin and Belfast in conjunction with Stobart Air, he added.
“Our civil engineering team is working with the Civil Aviation Authority on a proposal for refurbishment of the runway required to enable these services to operate,” Tinkler said.
A solar project at Southend was also completed to deliver renewable electricity for the airport and its customers.
Tinkler said: “Our new solar farm is the largest at a UK airport and supports one of our key objectives, which is reducing both our carbon footprint and the electricity we require from the national grid network.
“We are delighted, as London's newest airport, to have opportunities to introduce the latest 'green' initiatives as part of our development.”
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