The impact of COVID-19 has led to the loss of 21 per cent of jobs at Southend Airport, it has been revealed.
Dwindling passenger numbers has seen the number of full time posts at the airport drop from 274 to 217.
Passenger numbers fell from 2.15 million in the previous year to 147,000 in 2020-21, a reduction of 93 per cent.
The dramatic decline led to the loss of retail outlets, including TRG, Dixons and WHSmith.
Airlines including easyJet and Ryanair have also departed and it has been confirmed passenger flights from will not resume until the summer.
However, the airport remains upbeat and says it will be ready when things return to normal.
Addressing job losses in its annual report, the airport said: “A relatively small proportion of this was due to redundancy, to which 19 roles were lost. The majority of the change was due to natural wastage, with some people choosing to exit the aviation industry in light of ongoing uncertainty.
“Nevertheless, in the early part of calendar 2021, the airport began recruiting – including security, air traffic control and functional management roles, with an additional focus on apprenticeships – albeit against as yet undefined start dates.
“The airport anticipates a return to growth in the not-too-distant future as short haul and leisure traffic will return more quickly than long haul and business travel.”
Cllr Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, welcomed the airport’s confidence in the future.
He said: “It’s encouraging airlines are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We will have to wait and see but if Southend themselves are being optimistic maybe the airlines are also optimistic.
“Continuing to recruit and train is absolutely the right thing because they don’t want to end up with a skeleton staff and not be able to keep up with things if they happen quickly in terms of growth of the industry. Vaccines and boosters are going well.
“I believe easyJet and other airlines will see the benefit of the location. If you add Essex and east London it’s massive and Southend is a great place to fly from.”