New routes make London's Southend a viable Olympic airport

Travelers to next year's Olympics are to have a sixth London airport option, it emerged this week, with the launch of easyJet services from Southend.

The budget airline, which offers services to 30 countries, said June 16 that Southend is to become its latest base in Britain, something of a coup for the tiny airport.

EasyJet will fly 70 flights per week to ten European destinations, it said, meaning a throughput of around 800,000 is expected every year through Southend, which is situated around 60 kilometers from central London in the county of Essex.

The flights are set to commence in April 2012, and the airport will be referred to as 'London Southend,' joining the British capital's other airports Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, London Luton Airport and London Stansted Airport.

The announcement is likely to significantly raise the profile of Southend Airport, which was once London's third airport but is now little-known among travelers.

Over the past year, it has inaugurated a new state-of-the-art control tower, and is currently working on a runway extension, a new terminal building, and an airport hotel.

New transport links include a new railway station, which the airport says will run eight services every hour to Stratford in East London, the heart of the 2012 Olympics sites.

Visitor predictions for Olympic Games spectators range form the hundreds of thousands to the millions, with most overseas visitors expected to arrive by air, although Eurostar says that it plans to bring over a million people from the European continent to Britain.

London's airports - a long jump?
Distance from Stratford, East London and (Charing Cross, Central London)

London City - 5 km (12km)
Heathrow Airport - 41km (24km)
London Stansted - 42km (50km)
Gatwick Airport - 44km (39km)
London Luton - 46km (45km)
London Southend - 49km (58km)