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Home / Latest News / Holidaymakers snub Cardiff as they choose to travel from London airports

Holidaymakers snub Cardiff as they choose to travel from London airports

Less than a third of Welsh  holidaymakers used Cardiff  Airport for their trips in 2011,  with as many or more travelling to one of London’s four airports.

The figures for 2011, the  most recent year available,  show 1.2 million Welsh air  passengers used the Rhoose  terminal, according to the  Civil Aviation Authority  (CAA). This compares to 1.24  million people from Wales using Heathrow, Gatwick,  Stansted and Luton that year.

A further 759,000 flew from  Manchester Airport, 198,000  from Birmingham Airport  and 15,000 from East Midlands Airport. Figures for Liverpool and Bristol airports  were not provided.

The most popular single airport for Welsh travellers outside Wales was Heathrow  (810,000 passengers).

It comes as new CAA figures also show the number of  passengers using Cardiff Airport was up 8.7% in May  compared to a year before.  However, the provisional figures also showed that the  number of passengers over  the 12 months since last June  was just 995,500 – a fall of  10.6% over the previous 12  months.

Aviation expert Martin  Evans, a visiting fellow at the  University of South Wales,  said he was expecting a modest return to growth this year  at Cardiff, “based on a good  summer”.

He said: “Passengers are  drawn by two things, they’ll  go where the flights and frequencies are and where the  flights are cheapest.”

Passengers are currently attracted to the number of  low-cost flights to a larger  range of destinations at Bristol and flights to worldwide  destinations at London’s airports, he added.

“The challenge for Cardiff  Airport is to attract airlines  which are going to retain  some of these passengers in  Wales and make better use of  Cardiff Airport,” he said.

“We have a situation where  Cardiff could handle far more  passengers who are travelling  out of South Wales to use  airports in congested areas.

“It’s not good for passengers  and it’s bad for the economy  of Wales. Passengers using  airports in England are exporting jobs out of Wales.”

Mr Evans said the situation  was not an easy one to turn  around “because out of the  passengers that are leaving  Wales you have to identify a  very popular destination that  would make it attractive  enough for an airline to offer  that service from Cardiff”.

Earlier this year, Cardiff  Airport was bought by the  Welsh Government for £52m.

Mr Evans added: “The key  to increasing passengers  numbers to make the airport  attractive to airlines is to reduce costs by devolving air  passenger duty (APD) to the  Welsh Government and for  the Welsh Government to set  it to zero.”

Putting in sufficient surface  access to make it quick and  easy for passengers to use  Cardiff is also necessary, he  said.

Earlier this month the Welsh  Conservatives proposed the  appointment of an airlines director to attract new carriers,  improved transport links and  the devolution of air passenger duty to lower rates and  improve competitiveness.

Andrew RT Davies, the  leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Assembly, said  yesterday: “The issue of declining passenger numbers  has been a problem for some  time now and it is concerning  that many forecasters are now  suggesting that figures could  fall below a million by the end  of this year.

 “There is a danger, of  course, that we can focus too  heavily on the Welsh passengers flying out of local airports when more also needs  to be done to attract visitors to  Wales, and in particular to  Cardiff Airport.”

“Whilst there has been some good news recently, with Thomas Cook increasing their capacity and Vueling expanding their winter schedule, sadly the perennial issue of transport links to and from the airport remains an ever-present block on its development.”

“Furthermore, we need to be doing more to attract new airlines and to develop new routes. The capacity is there and sadly years of under investment have led the airport to where we are today.”

An airport spokeswoman  said: “We have already announced increases for summer as well as winter 2013  and we continue to work hard  with current and potential  new airlines to put more capacity in place.” 

“We are confident we shall continue to make progress and remain focussed on delivering more capacity and an improved route network for the people of Wales.”

Other figures released today show that freight volumes at Cardiff airport were sharply down last year compared to the year before.

The figures show that 66 tonnes of freight were handled at the airport in 2012, compared to 377 in 2011.

However, freight volumes through Cardiff are highly volatile, with sharp swings from year to year over the last four years.

Mr Evans said: “Because there are no wide body aircraft using Cardiff suitable for carrying freight as bellyload, freight is entirely dependent on integrated cargo carriers such Federal Express.

“If one of those were to introduce a freight service into Cardiff it would increase the amount of freight through Cardiff significantly.”

He added: “The key to freight movement is getting services to international destinations with wide body aircraft.

“Most cargo in South Wales leaves Wales on the back of a lorry and goes to Heathrow. It would be far better for Wales if we could attract those long haul services that would attract freight carriers.”

Cardiff Airport were approached but declined to comment.

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