Cardiff Airport’s future in spotlight as bmibaby exit
Passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport fell to 1.4m in 2010
Questions have been raised about the long-term future of Cardiff Airport after
a budget airline’s decision to halt operations there.
Air lobby group Wales Air Network said Cardiff was on course to become the size
of a smaller regional airport, such as Newquay in Cornwall.
Bmibaby said on Wednesday it was pulling out of Cardiff in the autumn.
An airport spokesperson said it was looking forward to forging new relationships
with other airlines.
Peter Phillips, chairman of Wales Air Network and a former head of marketing
and communications at Cardiff Airport, said: “It’s approaching [the passenger
numbers of] Bournemouth [airport] (which had 750,000 passengers in 2010) already
and it’s on the way to Newquay (which had 285,000 passengers in 2010).
“This should be a capital city airport up against Edinburgh and Belfast.”
Mr Phillips, a non-executive director at Pembrey Airport in Carmarthenshire,
said the airport needed to engage with the travel industry and business community
and start competing again.
David Rosser, director of business group CBI Wales, said help was needed in securing
“I think we need a real concerted effort from the assembly government to help
the air operators to find new operators for new routes,” he said.
“We need international air links out of south Wales.”
Bmibaby, which employs 69 people at Cardiff, blamed the economic climate for
its withdrawal, saying it would focus on airports with strong growth opportunities.
The airline started operating out of Cardiff in winter 2002.
Airport managing director Patrick Duffy said: “It’s not a question of saying
no to Wales, it’s a question of consolidating their fleet… which is getting
smaller and smaller every year anyway.
“This has been predictable for three or four years and in that time we have been
contemplating what life would be like without them.”
The total number of people using the airport fell 14% in 2010 to 1.4m, down from
1.6m in 2009.
But some transport analysts said the airport could use the loss of bmibaby as
an opportunity to attract other airlines.
Prof Stuart Cole, from the University of Glamorgan, said: “Cardiff Airport has
gone through positives and negatives over the years.
“It reduces the number of choices for people flying from Cardiff, but there are
other operators and other operators could come in.”
He said the assembly government was introducing an airport bus service and planning
rail improvements which “would make Cardiff far more attractive than Bristol”.
Martin Evans, of the Wales Transport Research Centre of the University of Glamorgan,
said bmibaby’s decision did not mean the end of Cardiff Airport.
“It’s still going to be the case that large numbers of people in south Wales
will want to travel to the southern Spain resorts,” he said.
Meanwhile, the airport has been boosted by a commitment from airline Flybe
Mike Rutter, chief commercial officer, said: “Flybe is, and remains 100% committed
to Cardiff Airport and we will provide extra capacity where necessary on the routes
that we currently operate where bmibaby have withdrawn.
Passenger numbers at Cardiff in 2010 were 1,398,000 which is down -14% compared
2009 1,624,728 passengers (down – 17.9% on 2008)
2008 1,978,719 ( down 5.5% on 2007)
2007 2,094,000 thousand (up 5% on 2006)
Bristol airport will be rubbing its hands in glee at this, but may be indicative
of a more general malaise