Britain’s budget airline boom has prompted an upstart airport to start using mobile phone data.
London Southend Airport in Essex is using mobile phone technology to monitor where locals are flying as it embarks on an ambitious strategy to reach 2.5m customers by 2018.
It can map where they are flying and set up new routes as a way to pinch customers from rivals such as Gatwick and Stansted.
Destination unknown: The Essex airport is using mobile phone technology to monitor where locals are flying
Airports are braced for a fierce war to win customers, with existing terminals rammed to capacity.
Yesterday was the busiest day for UK air space with 8,800 flights taking off and landing.
The Government is holding a consultation in a bid to find ways to increase airport capacity.
And with Gatwick and Heathrow locked in war over who should build a new runway, smaller airports are desperately trying to expand.
This week Stansted said it plans to offer budget flights to New York with a little known Icelandic airline, Primera Air.
Southend, which is owned by logistics company Stobart Group, is The best budget mobile first known to be monitoring travel patterns in a bid to ramp up the number of flights it offers.
The phone tracking technology has seen the airport launch routes with EasyJet to Malta and Murcia in Spain, and with Flybe to Manchester, Dublin and Glasgow.
It is also in talks with four different airlines to offer routes to Rome, Naples and Croatia.
Glyn Jones, chief executive, said: ‘What I can say to EasyJet is, for example, 100,000 people in a year in our catchment area are flying to Rome.
‘But what I can also say to them is, of the 100,000 people, 70,000 live closer to London Southend than anywhere else.
Therefore there is a rational offer – it’s easier for them to choose.’
Jones, 58, added that the company ‘doesn’t know the individual names’ of the customers that are travelling, but simply has access to big bundles of data which tell them where groups of customers are going.
Southend Airport is forecast to break 1m passengers this year, and has even built its own train station so commuters from London can get to the airport.
NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control services, said the UK aviation network will handle 777,000 flights this summer – the highest number in its history at 40,000 more flights than last year.
Also, 500,000 passengers are expected to pass through Heathrow this weekend, 335,000 through Gatwick, 136,000 through Stansted and 85,000 through Luton. London City Airport said it had deployed additional staff in its security, baggage handling and customer services in order to cope with the surge.
The Department of Transport has also proposed a mechanism that will allow travellers to dump their bags at a depot in advance and pick up boarding cards before making their own way to the airport at their leisure, or have suitcases collected from their homes.