Cardiff airport losing money and losing passengers to Bristol

Cardiff airport has not been doing well over recent years, with passenger numbers in 2011 down by 43% compared to the peak in 2007. Now Swiss airline, Helvetic, will move its service to  Bristol. Budget airline Vueling, which operates services to Barcelona, Alicante and Palma through the summer, will not run any flights from Cardiff through the winter period either.  Passengers decreased 14% year-on-year in 2011, largely due to the withdrawal of budget airline bmibaby last October. The airport made a £319,000 loss in 2011, compared with a profit of more than £1m in 2010,  £333,000 profit in 2009, £4m profit in 2008 and £7.2m profit in 2007.. First Minister Carwyn Jones has set up a taskforce, which met for the first time in June, to look at securing the airport’s future. Bristol airport seems to be expanding while Cardiff shrinks, with more Welsh travellers choosing Bristol instead.


Swiss airline quits Cardiff Airport – and switches to Bristol

The 100-seat Helvetic service, via Bristol, ran three times weekly last winter but will not operate this year

The 100-seat Helvetic service, via Bristol, ran three times weekly last winter but will not operate this year

Cardiff’s ailing airport has been dealt a fresh blow after it was confirmed a Swiss airline will stop its Zurich service this winter.

The 100-seat Helvetic service, via Bristol, ran three times weekly last winter but will not operate this year. Instead, the service will operate between Bristol and Zurich only.

Cardiff Airport’s business development and commercial director Steve Hodgetts said Helvetic had made a “commercial decision based upon results last year”, while the airline said the decision had been prompted by a lack of passengers flying from Cardiff.

But both parties said discussions were ongoing about restarting the route for the summer season next year.

Helvetic’s chief financial officer, Tobias Pogorevc, confirmed the route would not be running through the winter, citing “low passenger figures” from Cardiff as the grounds for the decision.
“While the leisure traffic out of Switzerland was more or less satisfactory, we were disappointed from the traffic ex (out of) Wales,” he said.

But Mr Pogorevc said planning was under way for next year’s summer schedule and the company was in discussion with “several tour operators” about planning packages out of Cardiff.

“A decision about the route will be made [at the] end of October,” he added.

The route was launched as a direct service between Cardiff and Zurich in March last year, but an additional stop in Bristol was added last December.

Mr Hodgetts said: “Their decision to stop operating is a commercial decision based upon results last year.

“Whilst it is disappointing we are working to ensure their return for summer 2013 and are confident that this can be achieved.”

Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies, Assembly Member for South Wales Central, said: “After launching the Cardiff to Zurich route just under two years ago to a large fanfare, this latest news will come as a real blow and further proof that the Welsh Government needs to do more to secure the future of these lifelines for Welsh businesses.”

Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns called for a new strategy to make the airport “a more attractive proposition to major airlines”.

He said: “The announcement is another blow for the Welsh economy and for the Vale of Glamorgan in particular. Many jobs depend on the airport and the viability of successful airlines based there.”

Budget airline Vueling, which operates services to Barcelona, Alicante and Palma through the summer, will not run any flights from Cardiff through the winter period either, said Mr Hodgetts.

But he said both parties were in “advanced discussions” about Vueling re-establishing flights from Cardiff next year.

The Echo last week revealed the airport had posted a £319,000 loss in 2011, compared with a profit of more than £1m the year before.

But Mr Hodgetts said the airport was in discussions with the Welsh Government about a “wide range of potential developments”.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has set up a taskforce, which met for the first time in June, to look at securing the airport’s future. A Welsh Government spokesman last week said they were focused on making Cardiff “an airport that helps drive economic development and tourism”.




Cardiff Airport suffered £319,000 loss in 2011, new accounts show 

Sep 07 2012   (Wales online)

Cardiff Airport

Cardiff Airport

Fresh concerns have been raised over the future viability of Cardiff Airport after it reported a six-figure loss last year.

Accounts filed with Companies House show Cardiff International Airport Limited suffered a £319,000 loss in 2011, compared with a profit of just over £1m in 2010.

The documents show the company, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TBI Limited, made a £333,000 profit in 2009, £4m profit in 2008 and £7.2m profit in 2007.

The number of passengers using Cardiff Airport dropped from 2.09 million in 2007 to 1.2 million in 2011 – a fall of more than 40% in four years.

In his report, Cardiff International Airport Limited financial director David Pickard said although passenger numbers decreased 14% year-on-year, largely due to the withdrawal of budget airline bmibaby last October, earnings dropped 52%.

It says the “disproportionate decrease” last year was mainly due to an “exceptional” level of commercial income and rates rebate in 2010.

Mr Pickard said the directors had a reasonable expectation that the company had adequate resources to continue “in operational existence for the foreseeable future” and the company was continuing as a “going concern”.

“There are signs that the market is recovering slowly with new operators Vueling and Helevetic commencing services and it was pleasing to welcome backflights to Florida for the 2012 peak summer season, but it may be another year before there are significant improvements in passenger numbers,” Mr Pickard wrote.

The accounts show turnover dropped from £17.6m in 2010 to £16.8m last year, while administrative expenses (operating costs) increased from £14.9m to £16.4m. The airport reported a £379,000 operating profit in 2011, but after tax and “interest payable” suffered a £319,000 loss.

Commenting on the loss, an airport spokeswoman said: “Airports have very high proportions of fixed costs as we have to maintain legally mandated levels of air traffic control, fire and rescue and security regardless of activity levels. In contrast all our revenue streams are activity based so as activity falls the costs assume a higher proportion of revenues.”

South Wales Central AM Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Conservatives in the National Assembly, said investment from the Welsh Government in the form of route development grants was needed to attract new airlines to Cardiff.

“In the context of these figures, it does raise fresh concerns about the viability of the airport going forward,” Mr Davies said.

“There is a market here in South Wales that desperately needs to be served. We have the asset in the airport, but to date there has been a complete lack of leadership.

“It takes two to tango, but we need action today not tomorrow because tomorrow might be too late.”

Tory councillor for Rhoose Jeff James, chairman of the Cardiff Airport Consultative Committee, said the financial loss was “very worrying” but said he did not share the concerns about the airport’s future viability.

He said the Spanish owners of the terminal, Madrid-based Abertis, had a “key responsibility” to spend money marketing the airport to potential passengers.

“It’s a big challenge for the management, but equally I think it’s a big challenge for the owners. They should invest for the future and be in a better position to get more airlines when the (economic) situation improves,” Coun James said.

A group set up by First Minister Carwyn Jones to look at securing the future for Cardiff Airport met for the first time in June. The airport yesterday said it was in discussions with the Welsh Government on a “wide range of potential developments” and will be making announcements together “at the appropriate time”.

The financial loss comes as the UK Government this week announced it would investigate ways to expand the UK’s airport capacity.

A commission chaired by ex-Financial Services Authority boss Sir Howard Davies will look at proposals which include a third runway at Heathrow or a new airport to the east of London. The commission will report after the next general election in 2015.

The Cardiff Airport spokeswoman said its longstanding position was that greater use should be made of regional airports, adding: “Of greater immediate concern is the Air Passenger Duty taxation regime in the UK which is depressing demand and airline confidence and making it harder for regional airports to attract new carriers.”



Cardiff Airport sees further drop in passenger numbers 

Aug 21 2012  (Wales online)

Spanish-owned Cardiff Airport has continued to see a decline in passenger numbers.

In the first half of this year the airport at Rhoose was used by 440,000 passengers.

The figures for the same period in 2011 was 558,000 – although that included the impact of low-cost carrier bmibaby.

However, when taking out the contribution of bmibaby – which pulled out of Cardiff at the end of last year’s summer season, the level in the first half of last year was 464,000 – only 24,000 more passengers than this year.

Moreover, latest annualised figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show that in the year from July 2011 to June this year Cardiff handled just over one million passengers, compared with 1.33m in the previous year. Cardiff’s closest rival Bristol International Airport handled 5.8m over the same period.

The airport, which this year secured low-cost carrier Vueling, has confirmed it was not currently seeking to appoint a new managing director.

Earlier this year the airport announced the departure of its managing director Patrick Duffy.

It did appoint headhunters Odgers & Berndston to oversee the search for the Irishman’s replacement.

However, that process has been put on hold with the airport being run by its existing management team.

In a statement it said: “The Cardiff Airport team will continue to work under the guidance and supervision of the current directors, without the appointment of a managing director at this time.

“This decision has been taken in light of a number of factors, including the development and progression of numerous internal and external initiatives with stakeholders such as the Welsh Government, the Chamber of Commerce and other parties; the success of the management structure over recent months; and, a review of other related business conditions.

“The airport’s group owners will continue to offer guidance and assistance to the directors when required during this interim period, and the situation will be reviewed regularly to ensure the structure is successful in delivering the airport’s goals and objectives.”

The three most senior executives at the airport are David Pickard, finance, Debora Barber, operations and Steve Hodgetts, business development and commercial

The airport said this summer had seen “many positive developments” including the launch of Spanish airline Vueling with flights to Barcelona, Alicante and Palma plus Cosmos operating flights to Orlando.

However, it confirmed that summer passenger numbers have decreased year on year due to airline capacity cuts and the termination of operations by low cost airline bmibaby.

In a statement it added: “Cardiff Airport continues to have a very strong charter market and load factors on scheduled services have also strengthened. Inbound traffic to the airport has also increased over the past year, and naturally inbound traffic is more beneficial to Wales and the Welsh economy. To ensure these new routes are successful the seats need to be sold to demonstrate demand for the services from the region.

“Route development remains the priority for Cardiff Airport, and the airport is working closely with the Welsh Assembly Government through the newly established Airport Taskforce and enterprise zone and is continuing aggressive route development efforts.”

Passenger numbers at Bristol Airport topped 650,000 last month, making it the busiest July on record. The number of people passing through the terminal was up 5.1% year on year, and surpassed the previous July high recorded back in 2008.

Around 14% of its passengers are attracted from Wales.



CAA passenger figures for Cardiff airport over recent years:

2005     1 765

2006     1 993

2007     2 094

2008     1 979

2009     1 625

2010     1 398

2011     1 208  (down  -14% compared to 2011)


CAA passenger figures for Bristol airport over recent years:

2005     5 199

2006     5 710

2007     5 884

2008     6 229

2009     5 615

2010      5 723

2011     5 768



Bristol Airport brings its promotion tour to Wales 

Jul 13 2012  (Wales online)

By Robin Turner, South Wales Echo

OFFICIALS from Bristol Airport crossed the Severn Bridge yesterday to spread the word about its new flights and improved facilities to people in Swansea.

Promotions staff in bright t-shirts handed out leaflets in Swansea’s city centre Morgans Hotel.

It is one of a number of road shows the West Country airport will be holding this summer in South Wales, the catchment area of its rival Cardiff Airport.

A Bristol Airport spokeswoman said: “Our promotions team toured travel agents and businesses in the city, promoting the three-hour time-saving to be made by flying from Bristol rather than London Gatwick.

“The increased frequency of the Flyer Express bus service, which now operates between Bristol Temple Meads train station, Bristol bus station and the airport every 10 minutes during peak times, means rail passengers from Swansea can be checking-in for their flights within two and half hours.”

Bristol Airport is the ninth largest airport in the UK and the fifth largest outside London.

According to research by Bristol Airport staff, a total of 1.2 million passengers with an origin or destination in South Wales currently fly to or from London airports (primarily Heathrow and Gatwick) every year.

A Bristol Airport spokeswoman said: “The journey time for National Express coach services from Swansea to Gatwick Airport is five hours 30 minutes, compared to two hours 30 minutes by rail and Flyer Express link to Bristol Airport.

A spokeswoman for Cardiff Airport said the promotion by its Bristol based rival was “not something the airport could comment on”.

But the Welsh airport has plenty to shout about, welcoming more than a million passengers every year, serving scheduled airlines and charter tour operators.

The airport has more than 50 direct destinations and more than 800 one-stop destinations around the world.

In 2006, the airport, at Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan, underwent a £7m enhancement programme, having already been the subject of £20m investments since 1995.

Since 2003, Cardiff has twice been voted one of the Top 10 Best UK Airports in the Telegraph Travel Awards.

Read More





£500m rail link to provide direct trains from South Wales to Heathrow

July 12 2012 (WalesOnline)

A Virgin jet taking off from Heathrow

A Virgin jet taking off from Heathrow

A £500m rail link that will provide direct rail access from the South Wales mainline to Heathrow was today announced by Westminster Transport Secretary Justine Greening.

The plans were announced as the Transport Department published a draft consultation document on the Government’s long-term strategy for aviation in the UK.

Opposition politicians criticised the consulation as it puts off making a decision on addressing the shortage of airport capacity in the south east of England.

The announcement of a direct rail link to Britain’s busiest airport from Cardiff and Swansea will mean that South Wales will be linked to the UK air hub for the first time rather than having to travel into London Paddington to get to Heathrow.

The rail link will cut 30 minutes off the journey time from Wales and West of England and could be operational as early as 2021.Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said: “The UK Government’s focus goes beyond single nations; hence our decision to build the Western Extension to Heathrow, which will for the first time connect South Wales to the UK’s main air hub and ensure faster journey times between Cardiff and Heathrow. This comes on top of electrification from London to Cardiff announced last year.”The Wales Office has always supported and recognised the importance of connectivity to Heathrow as a major UK air hub for Welsh business and Welsh passengers. The new rail link will not only provide a more convenient link, but will also be a key driver of growth for the region.

“It is vital we do all we can, working with the Welsh Government, to improve access and connectivity for organisations and businesses in Wales. Of course, with the business case for electrification for Swansea and the Valleys still under consideration, I continue to give strong support to these further proposals for improving Welsh infrastructure and to emphasise the critical role that rail modernisation could play in boosting the Welsh economy.”



Welsh Government urged to assist Cardiff Airport by committee

Cardiff Airport

Cardiff Airport

The Welsh Government has today been urged to take measures to assist Cardiff Airport by a committee of AMs.

In a report published today, the Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee calls on the administration in Cardiff Bay to introduce an improved, dedicated express bus service between the Rhoose airport and Cardiff city centre, and to explore the case for a frequent direct train service.

The committee also calls for an independent assessment of the airport’s viability as an international gateway to Wales, and for the Welsh Government to press the airport’s managers to invest in its development.

The report also suggests that the Welsh Government should look at the case for devolving Air Passenger Duty to Wales to assist those services that “generate sustainable tourism and business investment opportunities”.

The report “International connectivity through Welsh ports and airports” makes 19 recommendations, each of them directed at the Welsh Government. Of those recommendations eight involve Cardiff Airport.

The airport has suffered a sharp fall in passenger numbers in recent years. The report noted that a 2003 UK Government White Paper, The Future of Air Transport, and the 2006 Cardiff Airport Master Plan predicted significant growth in passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport by 2030, to 5 million and 7.8 million a year respectively.

But between 2007 and 2010, domestic passenger numbers declined by more than 35% and international passengers by more than 31%.

Figures provided to the committee by Cardiff Airport showed that passenger numbers continued to decline by 14% between 2010 and 2011, compared with an overall UK increase of 4%, and that the figure stood at only 1.2 million passengers in 2011.

“We were told by Cardiff Airport that the decline in passenger numbers at Cardiff was attributable to the withdrawal of Bmibaby and a failure to attract another low-cost airline,” the report noted.

However, as the committee notes, many of the key levers lie not with Cardiff Bay but with Westminster. The report urges the Welsh Government to seek to influence the UK Government’s forthcoming aviation framework so that it reflects the potential of Cardiff Airport.

The report also calls on the Welsh Government to do its utmost to show the adverse impact that current state aid guidance for aviation can have.

The recommendation came after noting a Department for Transport paper which said: “The UK has highlighted that the current guidance on start-up aid does not provide sufficient scope to support the establishment of routes from peripheral and development regions of the EU, including Wales.”

On the subject of Wales’ ports the report made a number of key recommendations to ensure that Wales grabs a share of the increasingly lucrative cruise market.

The committee called on the Welsh Government to encourage port operators to improve the tourist experience at their facilities.

It also urged Carwyn Jones’ administration to support Cruise Wales to devise and implement a strategic marketing plan to promote Wales and selected ports here to international cruise operators.

In further recommendations the report also called on the Welsh Government to champion the interests of Welsh ports and ferry operators and to press the UK Government to examine the electrification of relief lines on the Great Western rail mainline to provide better access for containers to Welsh ports.

Chairman of the Enterprise and Business Committee, Nick Ramsay said that there was much the Welsh Government’s powers and policies can do much to develop Welsh ports and airports in the future.

“Welsh ports and airports are vital to the future of the Welsh economy, and have a crucial part to play in developing international trade and tourism links,” he said.

“There is a need for a more holistic approach so that policies for ports and airports can achieve greater synergy with policies that aim to improve the whole transport network.

“We are aware that the Welsh Government cannot achieve all this on its own, but it needs to be fully engaged in policy development at a UK level. That includes advocating further devolution of powers to better shape and influence the sustainable development of ports and airports.”

Responding to the report Steve Hodgetts, Cardiff Airport’s planning and commercial director said: “We’re pleased that the committee has recognised the importance of Cardiff Airport, and we look forward to discussing and pursuing important recommendations with the Welsh Government and stakeholders.

“We’re confident that following a successful first meeting of the Cardiff Airport task force, set up by the First Minister Carwyn Jones, and the airport’s participation on the St Athan Enterprise Zone, the partnership between the Welsh Government, Cardiff Airport and other stakeholders will enable the airport to grow and thrive.”

… and it continues …