Revelations that the extreme Muslim group which has taken over Afghanistan are in talks with Qatar about the future of the country’s main airport, shine the spotlight on Cardiff’s controversial link up with Qatar’s state airline, and how Wales’s biggest airport was bought by the taxpayer for millions of pounds when another in Scotland cost just a pound.
They could too put centre stage the fact that troubled Cardiff Airport (CA) has again caused huge anger on social media, and prompt accusations once more that it appears doomed, after one low-cost airline announced the postponement of flights from there until next year.
It has been reported that the Taliban may be in talks with both Qatar and Turkey about the future running of Kabul (Hamid Karzai International) Airport, while a spokesman for the organisation which has controversially seized control of Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, said they are now busy securing the site.
Numerous media outlets have reported that a jet from Qatar carrying a technical team landed last Wednesday to talk about reopening the airport.
The Daily Mail item said: “A Qatari jet landed at Kabul airport today – the first since western mercy flights stopped late Monday – carrying a technical team that aims to get the airfield back up and running”.
The information has come after details of CA linking up with the state-run Qatar Airways (QA), which was greeted with enormous fanfare both from the mainstream media, and senior Welsh politicians, when the contentious move was announced three years ago.
This news was despite the fact that the UK Government had warned potential travellers to Qatar that they faced major risks, and it stated on its advice website: “Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Qatar“.
Eight sovereign nations around the world have severed diplomatic ties altogether with Qatar and in July 2017 it was reported that the state had been cut off by some of its neighbours over alleged terrorist support.
Qatar denies backing groups linked to Islamic State (IS), although it does admit it supports the Muslim Brotherhood.
The emirate had refused to comply with an initial list of 13 demands, saying it would not agree to any measures that threatened its sovereignty or violated international law.
But it was told by its neighbours that they wanted it to accept six broad principles on combating extremism and terrorism.
When the first flight from Doha (Qatar’s capital) was due, WalesOnline reported faithfully the words of Roger Lewis, then Chairman of CA, when he said: “This is a pivotal moment for Cardiff Airport, for Wales and the South West of England. The far reaching consequences of this service for passengers and businesses will be transformational”.
The same praising word was used by the Chief Executive of CA at the time, Deb Bowen Rees, who told the South Wales Echo (SWE): “The Qatar Airways service has been transformational…”.
In interviews, Carwyn Jones (First Minister of Wales [FMW] when it was announced) stated: “We would like to work with his excellency (Akbar al Baker the Chief Executive of QA)“.
Mr Jones tweeted that he “welcomed” the first QA flight into CA and said it represented a “huge boost” for Wales.
The then Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns informed us: “The new flight from Cardiff to Doha plugs our entrepreneurs straight into one of the most dynamic economies in the Middle East, and an airport which offers a further 150 global destinations”.
But it is obvious that this ‘boost’ or ‘transformation’ is now set against a growing cost, with aggrieved potential passengers turning to Bristol Airport instead of CA more and more during the pandemic.
One asked on Facebook (FB): “…am I correct in saying that despite living in Wales there is nothing to stop me flying from BRS (the international code for Bristol) and just paying for the (Covid-19) test I want?”.
Another passenger who saw his holiday flight cancelled, said: “I booked these flights at a good price and yet again we have to use Bristol and not support CWL (the international code for Cardiff) !”.
Other recent comments about CA’s performance on FB have been extremely critical, as well.
A former worker at CA, who said he had been at the airport for 19 years declared that he was sad to see the direction it has now taken. Andrew Smith said that CA was “Once a thriving airport with many overseas carriers”. He added: “Now they have 3 or 4, which are just bucket and spade flights…….sad times”.
A further FB post from a different person was: “the situation is dire… the survival of the airport as a Civil concern is dependent on how long Mr Drakeford (Mark Drakeford – the FMW) is willing to pump our money into the place – plus a bit of luck” with a worried face emoji after the disturbing message.
Another FB message, again from a different critic, was sent directly to CA, and also highlighted the problems. It stated angrily: “I resent flying from Bristol..”.
But this is not the first time that complaints about CA or its services have surfaced publicly.
A huge number of complaints followed the announcement from the headline-grabbing Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air (WA) that it will not fly from CA until at least next year, blaming the decision on pandemic restrictions.
The backdrop for this initial news about WA flying from Cardiff was the extraordinary acclamation it received in the Welsh media (it had been described as a ‘British’ airline in the South Wales Echo [SWE], and it IS London-listed, but eastern Europe-focused, and WalesOnline appeared to have reverted to ‘Hungarian’ in a more recent report about it postponing the flight).
Yet one traveller said recently on FB: “Just had our (Wizz Air [WA]) flights for Sep 2021 cancelled…”. Another angry passenger wrote: “Cardiff seems doomed ,gutting , the Welsh government needs to help but it won’t, very sad.” A further complainant said: “Drakeford’s (First Minister of Wales [FMW]) running CWL into the ground”.
Disturbing comments like these follow other alarming details, including about CA being hit harder than any other in the UK by the pandemic, raising serious questions among experts concerning why it was bought by the taxpayer in the first place for £52 million, when Glasgow Prestwick was purchased by the Scottish Government for £1, and putting, they say, its long-term future in doubt.
One told The Eye: “These latest figures are damning of Cardiff Airport, and show the folly of buying it for millions of pounds”. A further aviation specialist said to our journalists: “This just shows it was ridiculous to pay all that money for Cardiff Airport. Bristol is doing much better. I just don’t see that it has a future.”.
CA passenger numbers plunged by 87 per cent last year, 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.
The problems caused by these worrying figures have been exacerbated for CA by the news that (apart from WA postponing coming to Cardiff and possible talks being underway between the Taliban and Qatar) another airline operator collapsed just weeks after it announced two new routes from the airport.
The Irish firm Stobart Air has appointed a liquidator, and the sudden announcement that it was ceasing trading came hard on the heels of it revealing on May 5, two new routes to Dublin and Belfast, which were to begin from Cardiff later this summer.
But perhaps another route to Qatar may not be advisable if the Taliban are in talks with the country about the future of Afghanistan’s main airport there, shining the spotlight on the link up with Qatar’s state airline, and how Wales’s biggest airport was bought by the taxpayer for millions of pounds when another in Scotland cost just a pound…
Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his astonishing decades long award-winning career in journalism (which often involved providing awkward facts) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.