Uncertainty hangs over the future of Cardiff Airport

Cardiff Airport
Cardiff Airport

The future of Cardiff Airport (CWL/EGFF) has been thrown into doubt today following comments made by the Welsh Labour-controlled Government that owns the airport.

Welsh Labours deputy minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, has told the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) that further subsidising of the airport would not be in keeping with the Welsh government’s commitment to tackle climate change.

He also said that providing incentives to airlines, as they have done with airlines such as Qatar Airways and Flybe would also be against the climate change policies.

The Welsh Government bought the airport for £52m in 2013 and has since provided over £130m in support in the form of loans and equity investment but the airport has still failed to achieve success compared to other regional airports.

There has also been around £3m in subsidies for the Cardiff to Anglesey air link as well as unknown amounts of incentives to airlines, some of whom ended up pulling out as soon as the incentives ended.

The airport, which has some domestic flights, is set to benefit from the reduction in APD for domestic travel in 2023 by the UK Government and Mr Waters was asked whether he welcomed this.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787-8 preparing for take-off at Cardiff Airport (Image: The Aviation Media Agency.)
Qatar Airways Boeing 787-8 preparing for take-off at Cardiff Airport (Image: TransportMedia UK.)

Mr Waters replied, “I don’t think that subsidising and encouraging domestic air travel is in keeping with the challenge of climate change that we have and that the Prime Minister is trying to claim great international leadership on; I think it is a contradiction.”

Conservative deputy minister for transport Natasha Asghar MS was “surprised” at the response saying “The minister’s comments were somewhat surprising given the number of taxpayer handouts Cardiff Airport has received since being taken into public ownership eight years ago by Labour.

“It is a little hypocritical of Labour to say subsidising air travel is a bad thing, when they’ve pumped in hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer cash, and continue to do so, into their failed vanity project.

“If Labour ministers are planning to stop subsidising Cardiff Airport because it flies in the face of climate change, then it raises some serious questions over its future.

“I have no doubt that Cardiff Airport could become a thriving transport hub but after this latest intervention its future is now hanging by a thread.

“The Labour-run Government needs to urgently make clear its long-term intentions for the site given the jobs and taxpayer money linked to the airport.”

Passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport were just over 1m when it was bought in 2013 and despite the subsidies, its peak in 2019 was 1.6m which has led many to call for it to be returned to private hands and not funded by the Welsh taxpayer.

The Welsh Governments declaration of a climate emergency puts it at odds with the airport it owns with air travel being one of the big targets for climate change.

About Nick Harding 1471 Articles
Nick is the senior reporter and editor at UK Aviation News as well as working freelance elsewhere. He has his finger firmly on the pulse on Aviation, not only in the UK but worldwide. Nick has been asked to speak in a professional capacity on LBC, Heart and other broadcast networks.

4 Comments

  1. My husband was a pilot for Cambrian Airways and I was a stewardess 1960/70’s. We were a great company and the extension of the runway and new airport was an expectation of a great future.
    I feel the airport has been in the wrong hands and badly managed. It is essential for Wales to rejuvenate it. Going to Bristol and London for a flight is deplorable when we have the Cardiff airport on our doorstep.
    I’m sure this is because it’s in the hands of the current Welsh Assembly. Please convince us otherwise

    • I think it’s fair to say that under Welsh Government management the airport hasn’t done too badly at all. If I recall rightly, until Covid hit, the passenger numbers showed significant month on month growth over a good period of time and new routes were consistently added. The unfortunate demise of airlines such a FlyBe made a significant dent in the schedules but these are now being filled.

      I think the airport has a lot to offer and look forward to it resuming it’s growth following the current difficult period.

    • I think the UK Government should also share the blame.

      EU State Aid rules meant that there would was only limited amount of financial support the Welsh government could provide to the airport. Now that we are out of Europe, and State Aid will be determined from London, its doubtful they will allow the Welsh Government more spending freedom. If anything they may try to restrict Wales spending powers to protect the interests of neighbouring English airports.

      This was evident with their refusal to devolve Air Passenger Duty to Wales, despite Scotland and Northern Ireland having this power, simply because of objections from Bristol Airport.

  2. What is more eco-friendly? Let’s say 100 people driving various ages of cars between Cardiff and Scotland ot flying them all in one aircraft with up to date engines?

    If you’re going to apply this rule to air travel then why not buses too? If reducing APD is a bad thing when why not charge BPD on every bus ticket?

    Just my lateral thinking …..

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