Cardiff Airport is sold to the Welsh government

Posted: March 27, 2013 by Ellion hossain in News
Tags: , , , ,

Troubled Cardiff Airport has been sold to the Welsh government for £52m, it has been confirmed.

But First Minister Carwyn Jones said the airport, which was owned by TBI, would not be operated by the government.

It will be managed “at arm’s length” and “on a commercial basis”, he added.

Mr Jones has been critical of the airport after a slump in passenger numbers from a peak of two million in 2007 to just over one million in 2012.

He said it was vital for the number of passengers to be increased.

“Cardiff Airport is a vital gateway to Wales for business, tourists and general travellers alike,” he said.

“It is essential that its future is secured and that we develop high-quality sustainable services.

“The airport will not be operated by the Welsh government. It will be managed at arm’s length from government on a commercial basis and, over time, I expect to see a return to the public purse on the investment.

“A chief executive of the airport will be announced in due course. In the meantime, I am delighted that Lord Rowe-Beddoe has agreed to serve as chairman of the airport board.”

In the longer term, the board will look at the possibility of bringing in a commercial operator to run the airport.

Mr Jones said the Welsh government had been contacted by a number of interested operators but there would be an open and transparent process before any decision was made.

The airport’s existing staff will remain but only 40 are employed directly.

An average of around 1,000 staff work on the site as sub-contractors but that figure can vary considerably.

Mr Jones has for some time been critical of the way the airport has been losing passengers over recent years.

REACTION TO AIRPORT SALE

Inside Cardiff Airport

Reaction has been mixed to the Welsh government’s purchase of Cardiff Airport but almost everyone agrees a thriving airport would be good for the economy.

Business organisation CBI Wales said “strong and effective commercial stewardship” was required.

“To compete on the world stage, Wales needs world class infrastructure and a key part of that is a modern and effective international airport,” said director Emma Watkins.

“Welsh business needs a dynamic and thriving airport that can drive investment and deliver growth.”

The Federation of Small Businesses in Wales said infrastructure around the airport, such as roads and rail, needed to be improved.

“Increasing the number of flights and destinations would no doubt enable businesses to search for new markets and boost their trade internationally,” added Janet Jones, FSB Wales policy unit chair.

Political opponents were unsurprisingly sceptical but even those who were more supportive were keen to hear a lot more detail from the Welsh government about its plans.

Withdrawal of flights

Figures showed just over one million passengers used Cardiff in 2012, down about 200,000 in a year.

Meanwhile, nearby competitor Bristol Airport, which has sought assurances that Cardiff will not get state handouts, had seen almost six million passengers last year.

Cardiff was hit by the withdrawal of flights by budget airline bmibaby in 2011, but has said it expects 5% – 8% growth during 2013.

Last May, Mr Jones called on the Spanish owners of the airport to invest in its future or put it up for sale.

He said the airport gave a bad impression of Wales and was falling behind its rivals.

The owners said at the time that they had no plans to sell but would listen to offers.

Only this month there was bad news when Swiss carrier Helvetic announced it was pulling out, two years after the Welsh government spent £500,000 marketing Wales in Switzerland.

Helvetic started flying to Zurich from Cardiff in 2011, but had already dropped winter services after low demand and will not fly this summer.

The company said it was discussing with Cardiff Airport whether operations should restart in 2014.

However, Spanish airline Vueling said it was increasing services to Malaga and Alicante from Cardiff after a “positive response from Welsh travellers”.

It will add one extra flight to Malaga on a Wednesday throughout August and September.

Opposition politicians were sceptical of the Welsh government’s involvement in trying to turn around the airport’s fortunes.

“I have yet to be convinced that a 1970s style nationalisation is the answer to the airport’s problems,” said the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies.

“When you consider the recent decision by Helvetic to withdraw, in spite of the Welsh government having invested around half a million pounds, it is far from clear that the first minister is the best man for the job of rescuing this airport.”

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat economy and transport spokesperson, called on the Welsh government to “urgently announce its plans to transform the airport”.

“We’ve had the sound bites from Carwyn, we now know the price but now we need to see the substance and the government’s long term plans for attracting airlines, tourists and business travellers to Cardiff Airport,” she said.

Plaid Cymru also said it wanted to see the detail of the government’s plans.

“There is no reason why a publicly-owned national airport for Wales could not be far more successful than the airport in its present state.

“It is now up to the Welsh government to show that it has made the right decision, for the right reasons by getting the right results,” said Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood.

Cardiff Airport

Cardiff Airport in 1998
  • The airfield at Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan was built in 1941.
  • Control was transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the former Glamorgan County Council in 1965, and then to its three successor councils of West, Mid and South Glamorgan in the 1970s.
  • The airport was privatised in 1995, with TBI now owned mainly by the Spanish company Abertis with a minority stake held by the Spanish airports operator AENA.
  • Just over one million passengers used Cardiff in 2012, down about 200,000 in a year
  • Passenger numbers peaked at two million in 2007.

Source:http://www.bbc.co.uk

 

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