RUNNING an airport (or three in Glyn Jones’s case) is no job for the stamina-shy.

You’ve got passenger security, flight logistics, private jets zooming in and out, catering issues, transport links, people management and building maintenance to think about. But there’s one thing that matters more than any other.

“It’s the cleaning.” says Glyn, who is CEO of the Stobart Aviation Group which owns the airport.

“The ladies toilets in particular. Yep, people might laugh but I’m telling you now. it is the most important thing in an airport terminal. A very senior female politician once told me, if you don’t get that right, nothing else works.”

Glyn has been the top boss at Southend for just over four years and a lot has happened in that time. He also runs Teesside International and Carlisle Airports. In fact, a lot has happened over the past decade. Since taking it over in 2008, the Stobart Group has invested over £160million in the airport. It’s not only London’s fastest growing airport, it’s been named best of the capital’s airports several years running and boasts the fastest passenger security waiting times (along with Southampton) with an average wait of just 5.2 minutes.

“By the time it takes you to get through Heathrow security, you could have landed at Southend and be in London via our train links,” said Glyn, who is originally from Doncaster and has managed five airports in his career so far.

“We are a quick and easy airport now with 1.4 million passengers and we want to be just as quick and easy when we get to five million passengers per year.”

That’s the big target for Glyn and his team and they are well on their way to smashing it. By 2020 the numbers will be halfway to five million and the target should be reached by 2023.

But here’s the rub. People like Southend just the way it is don’t they?

Glyn explained: “The airport is growing super fast, that’s a fact, let’s get that out there. But the level of support amazes me and people are very encouraging about our success. But at the same time we are aware there are people with concerns.

“It isn’t difficult for people to support an airport when it’s small because the benefits are obvious. When it gets bigger it gets more of the benefits but the disbenefits get more noticeable too.”

Concerns come in the shape of extra night flights due to Stobart recently signing a huge deal with a ‘global logistics customer’ to lands its cargo planes at the airport. Although the airport is not allowed to confirm or deny the identity of the supplier, the Echo believes it to be Amazon.

So, does this mean loads more extra flights?

“No, it doesn’t. So, there has been some miscommunication surrounding this, which we’d like to set straight,” explained Charlie Geller group head of communications for the Stobart Group.

“This new customer has meant three extra flights per night taking place at the airport – two arrivals and one departure. The departure is about 5.30am and the arrivals are around 1am and 3am.

“One of the biggest concerns we’ve had from local people is about what aircraft would be used, ie would they be huge noisy cargo planes keeping everyone awake? The answer is no. Each flight has the same noise emmitance as a normal Ryanair flight and in terms of noise, the departures is always worse than the landing.”

Charlie added: “Because of the support we’ve received it has made us more conscious of listening to those concerned about this. We try to make sure we are always in a position where we are listening, engaging and where possible, acting.”

Glyn added: “We are constrained by our planning agreement which is very strict.We are allowed to have 120 ‘night movements’ a month and we are well under that.

“If you breach your number (that could happen because of planes being diverted by weather and emergencies etc) there is a mechanism that you have to take the number off of your number the next month.

“That’s only happened here twice.

“I ran Luton Airport for seven years. Luton is seven times as big and their restrictions aren’t nearly as strict. In fact in order to do this with our global logistics supplier we have asked Ryanair and Easyjet to shuffle their flight times around a bit at night – and they have.”

Another concern among residents is worries lorries will be thundering in at all hours to meet night flights.

Glyn explained: “There are four lorries per departure and three per arrival. It’s about as many as you would get in a day to a supermarket.

“There were worries they would be using the residential lanes at all hours but that simply is not happening.”

Glyn admits he’s never going to be able to please everyone. Many people would like the airport to get bigger and to expand its routes, others who live nearby would like to see it stall.

“The bottom line is we are listening. Nobody can have all that they want, nobody,” said Glyn. “But everyone has to get something otherwise you end up with a big imbalance.

“There will always be people who for absolutely honourable reasons believe the opposite to you.

“The first airport I ever ran was Bournemouth and in some respects the questions and concerns we had there are the same here. How do you develop an airport when there is sensitivity around it?”

Southend Airport currently offers flights to just under 50 destinations in the UK and Europe. Is there any way we could see routes to New York and the like being added?

“To have long haul flights you need to have a bigger runway,” said Glyn.

“Our runway is not that big and there’s a railway at one end and rising ground at the other. To make a runway work to capacity you have to use both ends. We don’t have that capability. You should never say never because things change and aviation technology is improving, but being realistic about it, for the foreseeable future, this is and will remain a short to medium haul airport.”

There’s no doubt the rise of the airport has meant a big boost for the Southend economy. The new big money partnership alone has led to 200 new jobs, with more on the way.

“Our global logistics partner could have chosen loads of airports to work with but they chose here,” said Glyn. “One of the reasons they chose us is because we were so bold in the belief that we could find the right workforce. And we have.

“We recently held a recruitment day and 850 people came. We are still recruiting – we are over-recruiting in fact, both on the airport side and the cargo side and the same in the warehouse.”

Charlie explained: “We’d rather over recruit and take that hit. If we don’t have enough people at any one time we have to stop working.”

Another recent success has been the arrival of Wizz Air. The low-cost Hungarian airline is set to launch two new routes from November – the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and the Romanian capital Bucharest.

Charlie said: “The Wizz Air arrival is super exciting and opens up the enormous Eastern European market to us. It also will mean a lot of inbound traffic, ie, people coming to Southend to see their families and for a break which will benefit the local economy.”

So, in an age of Extinction Rebellion and the Greta Thunberg phenomenon what is the airport doing to address environmental concerns?

“This airport is efficient. The aircraft come straight in, they are on a continuous descent approach and come straight into airfield, no holding. The taxi times are very short,” explained Glyn.

“You do occasionally have to hold a plane but in the four years I’ve worked here I’ve never seen a plane circling. So we are far more efficient in things like that than the London airspace airports. We have improved out railway links too.”

Charlie added: “We’re big on our sustainability. We generate most of our own energy with solar panels, we collect rainwater and we are looking at ways to carbon offset flights.”

Glyn added: “Like I said, it’s impossible to please everyone but we are a huge success story. We’ll not get bigger and worse – everybody else does that. We’ll get bigger and better.”