Southend Airport offers free flights to passengers delayed at Heathrow or Gatwick

If your plane from Gatwick or Heathrow to Manchester, Glasgow or Dublin is late, we’ll give you a free flight from Southend. That’s the offer from the Essex airport to the first 1,000 passengers who are delayed by at least half an hour at London’s two largest airports from next Monday, 14 August 2017.

But terms and conditions apply; in particular, the free ticket won’t be available until the end of October.

The move is to publicise Southend airport’s new links to Manchester, Glasgow and Dublin, which begin on 29 October. 

To qualify for a free flight, the traveller must be on a flight from Gatwick or Heathrow to one of those destinations between 14 August and 30 September. The departure must be at least 30 minutes behind schedule. The passenger then emails a copy of their boarding pass to noting the time the flight eventually left.

If he or she is successful, they will get a voucher code for a free flight.

Both Southend airport and the operating airline, Stobart Air, are part of Stobart Aviation. Glyn Jones, the firm’s chief executive, said: “Heathrow and Gatwick keep celebrating rising passenger numbers but what is good for their bottom line makes for a bad travel experience for tens of thousands of passengers every day. 

Problems of airport capacity have been around for decades, and we’re probably still a decade away from a solution.

“Because we have peak capacity now, we can play a role right now.”

The airport claims that 21 per cent of passengers at Heathrow were delayed by more than 15 minutes in the first five months of 2017; from Gatwick, the figure was 26 per cent. But while Southend will offer 12 flights a week to Glasgow, British Airways has that many in a day from Heathrow and Gatwick combined.

A spokesperson for Heathrow said: “Over the past decade we’ve invested over £11bn to transform our airport, including in new leading-edge technology to make Heathrow more efficient and reduce delay times – which no one wants to see.

“Our passengers continue to rank Heathrow the Best Airport in Western Europe for the third consecutive year. We’re also looking forward to an expanded Heathrow which will have the additional runway capacity to ensure our passengers get away on-time, making even more journeys better.”

“London Southend”, as the south-east Essex airport styles itself, is one of the oldest airports in Britain; the first flight, in 1915, was a military mission making an unsuccessful attempt to intercept a German Zeppelin.

Southend airport was once the third-busiest in Britain, after Heathrow and Manchester, but is now way behind the county’s other airport, Stansted, in terms of flights and passengers. And from the perspective of many travellers, Southend is on the tricky side of Billericay, being 40 miles east of London.

In the most recent survey by The Independent of public transport links to UK airports, Southend came last out of 26 due to the distance from the capital and the consequent high fares and journey time: 52 minutes by train from Liverpool Street station, with a fare of £16.40.

London City airport was rated best in Britain in the survey, with Heathrow taking fifth place.

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