Cardiff Airport drop in passenger numbers prompts Tories’ private ownership call



Cardiff Airport drop in passenger numbers prompts Tories’ private ownership call



Welsh Government says figures were ‘expected’

The Welsh Conservatives have called for Cardiff Airport to be returned to private ownership after September saw a year-on-year drop in passenger numbers of 7%.

The fall in provisional figures, compiled by the Civil Aviation Authority, was described as “expected” by the Welsh Government, which said the month had been a successful one at the airport for budget airline Vueling.

But an air industry insider said: “This is more bad news for Cardiff Airport – and the figures don’t include the imminent closure of the CityJet route to Glasgow.

“The downward trend is noticeable – in August the passenger numbers were down 8.2% at 135,900. While there was an increase in aircraft movements in September, that can be accounted for by the Nato Summit, which saw additional one-off traffic for smaller aircraft.”

Shadow Transport Minister Byron Davies said: “These reports of a near double digit decline in passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport in the past two months compared to 2013 are deeply concerning. Welsh Conservatives disagreed with Labour’s decision to spend £52m buying Cardiff Airport, but now it is state-owned, Labour ministers must work hard to help it achieve its potential.

“This reported decline in passenger numbers, together with the recent withdrawal of CityJet flights to Glasgow, fails to create the perception of a prospering international airport.

“The sooner Cardiff Airport is returned to private ownership to encourage private sector investment to help ensure its future, the better.”

A spokeswoman for Cardiff Airport said: “September’s passenger numbers are down from September 2013 – this was expected and is a result of some seasonal adjustments by our airline partners.

“Despite the dip in passenger numbers, September was a successful month for Spanish low cost carrier Vueling with overall load factors up and passengers taking advantage of their routes to Alicante, Malaga, Barcelona and Majorca.

“Both KLM and Aer Lingus have also experienced increased load factors, with passengers using the hubs of Amsterdam and Dublin to connect Wales to North America, the Middle East, Asia and beyond.”

Airport managing director Debra Barber said: “We were expecting this slight dip in passengers – it has been caused by airline fleet changes which are not unusual in the industry.

“We have new and additional airlines and service in the form of CityJet and more recently Ryanair, which is returning to Cardiff with a weekly service to Tenerife next week.

“Flybe has announced flights to Geneva for the ski season, there will be more capacity from Thomson to Malaga and P&O is adding further Caribbean cruise flights this winter.”



CAA data showing the number of Air Transport Movements (= commercial flights) at Cardiff:

2007 about 23,000

2008 about 23,000

2009 about 20,000

2010 about 17,000

2011 about 16,000

2012  about 14,000

2013 about 14,000



CAA data showing the number of passengers at Cardiff:

2007 =  2 094 000

2008 = 1 979 000

2009  = 1 625 000

2010  = 1 398 000

2011  = 1 208 000

2012  = 1 013 000

2013  = 1 057 000


Earlier news about Cardiff airport:

Former boss of Cardiff airport says its expansion plans are massively unrealistic, without public subsidy

Keith Brooks, the former chief executive of airports group TBI, said Cardiff Airport’s passenger forecast is “massively unrealistic” and that it needs to be more realistic in its expectations. Last week, in an unexpected move, it was announced that the airport’s chief executive Jon Horne will stand down next week after only 18 months in the role. The airport’s director of operations will be interim managing director. While Cardiff airport has not published any specific short to long-term passenger growth targets, since being taken over by the Welsh Government for £52m last year it has arrested year-on-year decline. Annual passenger numbers now stand marginally up at just over one million. Keith Brooks said: “They have had massively unrealistic expectations of what they can do in this period [since acquisition]…..Aviation is a very slow moving industry and negotiations with airlines take a long time.” Getting a significant low-cost carrier, like Ryanair, to expand routes from very low levels would require “significant subsidy” inducements. That means government subsidy, and tax payers’ money. The Welsh government “will not just be able to turn things around in a short period of time.”

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Ryanair to have one flight per week to Tenerife in winter from Cardiff airport

Ryanair has been seen as the holy grail for passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport. But Cardiff will now have just one Ryanair route, once a week to Tenerife during the winter. “However, there is a wave of optimism that this one route will develop into a network that will improve the airline offering at Cardiff.” There is a history to the relationship between Ryanair and Cardiff Airport. Ryanair had a very successful route between Cardiff and Dublin from 2001 to 2006. The departure of Ryanair followed a reported disagreement with the airport over airport charges.improve the experience for all passengers. Ryanair is an opportunity if the passenger numbers on the new route convince Ryanair to develop even more new routes. However Ryanair would need to deliver substantial passenger numbers to compensate for the lower charges that Cardiff airport will be paid. It would also be necessary to maintain the existing carriers as competition so that Cardiff doesn’t become an airport totally reliant on a single carrier that is using market power to continuously drive down airport income.

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Welsh Economy Minister says Cardiff Airport likely to return to profit only in ‘long-term’

March 21, 2014 The Welsh Economy Minister, Edwina Hart, has said that Cardiff Airport – now in public ownership – is likely to return to profit eventually, but not in the short term. She said its downward spiral is no longer continuing. The airport finally becoming profitable is a “long-term” strategy. She was giving evidence to the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee on the airport, which was bought by the Welsh Government for £52m at the end of 2012. Ms Hart suggested there wouldn’t be a quick sale of the airport back into the private sector, which the Scottish Government is seeking for the newly-nationalised Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire. Pressed by the Plaid Cymru economy spokesman on when the government expected the taxpayer to recoup its investment. She said the Budget announcement for support for regional airports to set up new routes would apply to Wales and that they would “wait for the detail of it”, but confirmed the Welsh Government is likely to bid in for funding. Chancellor George Osborne announced a £20m annual fund will be used to encourage new routes from regional hubs like Cardiff.

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Cardiff Airport is bought by the Welsh government for £52m (over-priced?)

March 27, 2013    The current owner of Cardiff Airport, Abertis, which bought the airport from local councils in 2005, has now managed to sell it to the Welsh Government for £52 million. That price is well above market value when compared to recent transactions involving UK airports. The airport was valued at about £34 million in 2010. It has been making large losses and losing passengers for many years. The Government is desperate that it gets more passengers and gets back to making a profit. Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said it would not be operated by the government and would be managed “at arm’s length” and “on a commercial basis”. Cardiff’s passengers have declined from around 2 million in 2007 to just over 1 million in 2012, as many have chosen Bristol airport instead. Bristol airport is now concerned that Cardiff would now unfairly benefit from state support. Cardiff was hit by the loss of bmibaby in 2011. The airport’s board will try and get in a commercial operator and hopes to attract long haul and transatlantic flights. Only recently there was news that Swiss airline Helvetic will pull out of Cardiff, 2 years after the Welsh government spent £500,000 marketing Wales in Switzerland.

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Welsh government buying Cardiff airport from Abertis in £50m cash deal by the end of March

February 21, 2013      The Welsh Government is expected to complete its acquisition of Cardiff Airport by the end of March in a straight cash deal understood to be around £50m with current owner Abertis. A due diligence process is being undertaken on behalf of the Welsh Government. The deal will not see the Welsh Government taking on any debt at the airport – which posted pre-tax losses of just over £300,000 in 2011. In the short to medium term the Welsh Government would need to inject about £6m a year in capital expenditure and airline route development support – including agreeing to underwrite any losses in the first few years accrued by airlines establishing new routes out of Cardiff. ie public subsidy. It is understood that representatives of the Welsh Government have already sounded out a number of low cost airlines over setting up operations, including Ryanair – which was asking too much. Discussions are continuing. It is unlikely that the airport, post deal, would be directly owned by the Welsh Government but by some special purpose vehicle instead.

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