The Vale of Glamorgan council is inviting bus operators to bid to run the service, which comes four months after the Welsh Government’s £52m takeover of the Rhoose terminal.
It will be scheduled to run approximately every 20 minutes between 4am and midnight, 363 days a year, according to the contract notice.
The notice does not provide details on the exact route or the location of stops, but describes it as a “high profile, quality, limited stop, express local bus service”.
Vehicles will be supplied by the council, but fully maintained – including onboard services such as free WiFi – by the successful contractor.
Maximum fares will also be set by the Vale council, but the operator will retain any onboard revenue, including any income from external sales agents, the notice adds.
The express bus contract will initially be awarded on a trial basis for the six months up to the end of January, with the council holding an option to extend it by up to five years.
The contract was advertised on June 18 and the deadline for applications is July 18 – just 14 days before its planned launch.
It comes after Cardiff Bus announced it would scrap its X91 Sunday service to Cardiff Airport due to low passenger numbers, although the two-hourly Monday to Saturday service will continue.
The Vale council said it had been asked by the Welsh Government to procure a high quality express bus service between the airport and the city centre and Cardiff Bay.
A council spokeswoman said the proposed maximum fare was adults £5 single or £8 return; children £2.50 single or £4 return; and, Welsh concessionary pass holders and children under five ride free.
The four buses needed for the service, plus an additional engineering spare, are being paid for by the Welsh Government.
Following receipt of tenders, a decision will be taken by the Welsh Government, with the council, as to when the service will start.
The service will have limited hotel stops between the airport and Cardiff.
The rail link bus which connects Rhoose Station with Cardiff Airport is planned to continue for the immediate future. It is also funded by the Welsh Government and the Vale council.
Councillor Lis Burnett said: “The Vale council is pleased to support the Welsh Government in the delivery of this new service. We feel strongly that high quality, public transport at affordable prices is essential to securing a positive future for Cardiff Airport.”