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CEO admits airport wouldn’t be here without taxpayer bailout

TUI Airways UK Boeing 787 (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

TUI Airways UK Boeing 787 (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

The CEO of Cardiff Airport (CWL/EGFF) Spencer Birns has said that the Welsh Government writing off £46m of taxpayer money saved the airport. It also provided a further £46m in recovery funding.

The airport was bought by the welsh government in 2013 for £56m, but despite a large investment, it has failed to turn around its fortunes or provide value for money to the Welsh taxpayer.

The collapse of Flybe, which received significant financial incentives from the Welsh Government was a significant blow to the airport which has struggled to revive passenger numbers and shortly after the airport was hit further by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Welsh Labour faces a dilemma though. Although it owns the airport, it is encouraging a net-zero policy, which recently led to one Welsh Minister throwing doubt over future funding although Mr Birns has said that despite the slow recovery, the airport could still “provide the economic value back to Wales”.

One economist professor at Cardiff University’s business school suggested that the only strategy would be one where the airport is wound down. Professor Calvin Jones speaking to the BBC said: “I think that the right thing to do is just have some strategy where you wind the airport down.

“As soon as you take that on the chin and start to think about what we might do with this potentially valuable piece of land in a genuinely zero carbon way, then some good ideas might arise.”

Welsh Conservatives have also called for the airport to be sold to private investors intend of pumping public money into an “empty pit”. Welsh Conservatives transport and technology spokeswoman Natasha Asghar MS said: “I would say cut your losses and sell it, accept what’s happened and spend that money on other things more important and a priority to the people of Wales right now”

Welsh Labour however said it remained committed to the airport.

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