The UK Government has blocked a bid by the Welsh Government to increase the passenger numbers on the Intra-Wales PSO route between Cardiff Airport and Anglesey Airport (Yns Mon).
The Welsh Government had applied for a derogation, where an exemption from or relaxation of a rule or law is sought, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Department for Transport (DfT) in order to the increase the current limit on passengers per flight on the route to 30 but the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee heard today that this has been declined.
Anglesey Airport is within RAF Valley which is home to the UK’s Fast Jet Training school. As an active RAF base, It is understood that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) have security concerns about the number of civilians using Wales only internal flight.
The Public Service Obligation route (PSO) is subsidised annually by the Welsh government to the tune of £1.2m and currently operates with a Jetstream 41 aircraft capable of carrying 29 passengers but can only carry 19 passengers. The route is up for tender shortly and an increase in passengers would have made the route more tempting to potential bidders. It is not yet known if the current operator intends to bid but a source close to the airline suggested that they were keen to get the increase.
Flights between the two ends of wales can cost as little as £26 each way and the route has increased in popularity since Eastern Airways took over the route seeing a 40% increase in passengers.
According to Wales’ Economic Infrastructure director, Simon Jones believes the denial is down to security, not safety grounds. He said: “What we’re told by the CAA and the DfT is that this is a security issue, not a safety issue.” adding “I guess with the current security alert status in the UK, there’s a concern about the way that planes can be used for terrorist type activities.”
Ken Skates AM recently hinted that the Welsh Government was exploring more PSO routes from Cardiff Airport. The tender process for the Intra-Wales route is expected to begin in June.