A Committee of Assembly Members (AMs) has concluded that Cardiff Airport lacks long-term plans compared to other UK airports such as Glasgow Prestwick which plans up to 8 years ahead.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) investigated the purchase and progress of Wales’s only international airport which was bought in 2013 by the Welsh Government. The purchase proved to be controversial however ministers saw a “clear rationale” for purchasing the airport from its previous owners.
Committee chair and Conservative AM Darren Millar said it was clear the airport had been “in decline” before 2013, and “prospects for turning it around under its previous ownership were bleak”.
Passenger numbers have been growing steadily however, growth has not been as rapid as many had hoped and further hindered by the unwillingness of the UK government to devolve Air Passenger Duty (APD) to Wales as they have with Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Transport Minister Edwina Hart responded to the report by saying “If we had not acted swiftly the airport would have undoubtedly closed”
On the future, AM Darran Millar said “We also recognise the importance to Wales of having its own international airport and the wider benefits for Wales arising from this, however, although the airport has the potential to grow significantly, we note its progress against the acquisition business plan in terms of passenger growth are behind target.”
Debra Barber, Cardiff Airport Managing Director said “We would like to make it very clear that while we report to our holding company with a rolling two-year business plan, we operate with much longer term projections.
“The PAC is looking backwards. We are continuously forward-looking with a real vision for the future of the airport.”
Cardiff Airport has seen significant growth over the last 3 years which would undoubtedly be helped by the devolution of APD as it would make Cardiff a more attractive destination to carriers, particularly long-haul carriers, than other regional airports.