Shocking figures which have been posted online about passengers from troubled Cardiff Airport (CA), highlight growing worries concerning its future, amid mounting alarm that it was bought using millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money when a Scottish equivalent was purchased for only £1.
Other comments from critics on CA’s own Facebook (FB) page seize on the fact a flight has been axed, and dub the airport a Welsh Government (WG) “mess”.
The statistics show that there has been a massive drop in tourists going to key European tourist destinations from Wales’ biggest airport, with Palma down by 23,000, Alicante by 22,000, Teneriffe by 16,000, and Larnaca by 12,000. In all, during the year to August 2023, there were more than 18,000 FEWER travellers from CA.
“These numbers really are awful”, one aviation expert told The Eye. “They show the total folly of buying it with millions of pounds of public money in the first place”.
However this has not been the first time that controversial CA has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Last month, we showed how a disturbing message about Air Traffic Control (ATC) staffing, had a severe knock-on effect for CA. It declared: “DUE TO ATC STAFFING, REQUESTS TO CROSS THE CARDIFF CTA/CTR (the area of controlled airspace around an airport) MAY BE REFUSED OR DELAYED. PILOTS SHOULD PLAN TO REMAIN CLEAR OF CARDIFF CONTROLLED AIRSPACE AND USE THE LISTENING SSR (the radar that is used by controllers to assist aircraft in landing when there is poor or zero visibility). CODE 3636″.
The Eye have also divulged how one critic, who watched as events unfolded at CA, said: “I do really worry about the long term viability…”, different enthusiasts reported: “Unfortunately Cardiff is too close to Bristol…”, and “I wouldn’t call Cardiff a major airport…”.
A separate angry traveller has also said on CA’s FB page in the past, that he was “not happy” he now had to fly from “bloody Bristol”, while it has also been announced: “There has never been sufficient demand in the winter from Cardiff”. A further tourist said: “I flew to Tenerife on 13th Dec from Cardiff. Only 45 of us on the flight”.
Huge worries from flyers were put on other sites, too, after an internal service, which had been recently restored, was halted.
Several years ago direct flights from CA to Belfast were introduced, operated by Eastern Airways, but, even though the flights were greeted with enormous fanfare, the route was later suspended.
Simon Calder, a freelance travel expert who writes frequently for the Independent, pointed to what he sees as limitations to the CA’s location in the Vale of Glamorgan, and said the venture lacked a ‘viable business plan’.
A detractor has also said that questions should be asked of politicians in the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC), while another stated that it was cheaper to fly from Bristol.
A further critic, included in his comments a spoof news ‘report’, with a remark from a CA executive: “Never mind, we will just apply to our pals at the WAG (Welsh Assembly Government, the former WG) for another massive donation of tax-payer cash.”.
UK Aviation News has stated: “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”.
The remarkable events at CA have even been the subject of our satirical writer Edwin Phillips.
They are set against a picture of thriving airports in Scotland, which are almost the same distance apart as CA and Bristol Airport (BA).
The time taken travelling between Edinburgh and Glasgow airports is over an hour, while it is only 18 minutes more between CA and BA, yet both are successful because their services complement each other rather than compete.
It is clear that BA is popular with fliers, unlike CA.
One flight expert told us: “This (an expansion at BA) might be positive for Bristol, but it is TERRIBLE for Cardiff. I just don’t see how it can survive”.
Another said: “Coming on top of everything else, this may be the death knell for Cardiff Airport. It is just in the wrong place, and people don’t want to fly from there”.
Meanwhile, in stark contrast to the fanfare from senior officials, politicians, and the mainstream media in Wales when a link-up was announced between CA and the state-run Qatar Airways (QA), the Welsh Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, MS, acknowledged that providing incentives to airlines (as they did with QA) is against climate change policies.
He admitted to other WP/SC politicians: “I don’t think that subsidising and encouraging (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”.
Other politicians, however, were disconcerted by this proclamation.
The Conservative Deputy Minister for Transport Natasha Asghar, MS, said: “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 growth at BA, and the recent alarming news, cast a critical light on the purchase of CA using millions of pounds of public money. It was bought by the WG in 2013 for £52 million, while the Scottish Government (SG) purchased Glasgow Prestwick Airport (GPA) for just £1, yet a valuation of Cardiff’s in March two years ago said it was worth only £15 million.
Since the public acquisition, the WG has provided over £130 million in support in the form of loans and equity investment. There has also been around £3 million in subsidies for the Cardiff to Anglesey air link as well as unknown amounts of incentives to airlines, some of which pulled out as soon as the money stopped.
However in December 2012, the First Minister of Wales (FMW) at the time, Carwyn Jones, had said, when the airport was about to be obtained, that it should make a “return to the Welsh taxpayer”.
Plaid Cymru (PC) welcomed the announcement that CA was to be taken into public ownership, and declared that it needed to be a “shop front” for Wales, but the Welsh Conservatives (WC) demanded evidence that nationalisation would provide value, and the Welsh Liberal Democrats (WLD) warned it would become a “money pit” for public funds, which could have been borne out.
Despite the money lavished on it, the airport has still failed to achieve success compared to other regional airports, and languished at the very bottom of the league table.
CA passenger numbers plunged by 87 per cent during the height of the pandemic, with travellers there falling from 1,656,085 in 2019 to just 219,984 in 2020. Southampton Airport suffered an 83.4 per cent decline, London City Airport saw a drop of 82.3 percent in passenger figures, with numbers at Leeds-Bradford Airport going down by 81.2 per cent.
However, the man in charge blamed the WG, even in the face of ministers spending millions of pounds to keep his airport afloat.
The CEO of CA, Spencer Birns told a committee at the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC): “There was more traffic handling at other airports than there was at Cardiff, but then don’t forget we’ve been in a position in Wales where, and quite rightly so, the government have been so heavily focused on the health of the nation, that actually encouraging people not to travel overseas has been a major factor in the Welsh government’s approach”.
It seems that huge numbers of people are not travelling overseas from Wales’ biggest airport, and dumbfounded critics have exposed the truth online…
Details of our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry‘s astonishing career (including being the first to reveal uncomfortable facts) as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – how for Phil establishing the TRUTH has always been difficult, although paramount, and this is now stressed by revelations of the complete chaos at the heart of UK Government during the Covid-19 crisis, when the public were led to believe everything was under control.