Vueling considers more flights from Cardiff Airport

Vueling Airbus in flightBy Kevin Leonard

A low-cost airline which this year launched new routes from Cardiff Airport says it is looking at offering more flights next year.

Vueling flies to Barcelona, Alicante and Palma, and said it was reasonably happy with its Cardiff results so far.

But the Barcelona route is causing some concern with the airline saying it would like to see more passengers.

Cardiff Airport welcomed the expansion plans and called for passengers to support its routes.

The Vueling services are important to Cardiff after it saw a drop of 800,000 passengers since its peak of two million in 2007.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has called on the Spanish owners of the airport, Abertis, to invest in its future or put it up for sale.

Abertis has said it has no plans to sell but would listen to offers.

Mr Jones has also been in talks with potential buyers interested in a public-private partnership, with the Welsh government taking a stake, and has set up a task force to help the airport’s “competitive position”.

Javier Suarez, route planning senior manager at Vueling, said: “We are currently planning our next summer season and, although things change rapidly, we should see more flights in CWL [Cardiff Airport] in 2013 than the ones we are operating this 2012.”

It is not yet clear whether this would involve a new route or more flights on existing routes.

Mr Suarez said initial results for its services from Cardiff to Palma and Alicante, which started in June, were “pretty good”.

Smaller plane

The Barcelona-based airline also recently announced it was extending its Alicante flights this year.

“Based on this positive results, we have decided to extend our operations in Alicante, from the initial June to mid-September, to an extended June to end of October,” said Mr Suarez.

“Another positive note is that feedback from passengers who have used our flights from Wales is that they really like the services.

“Cardiff-Barcelona is the only one we would like to see with higher loads.”

New figures from Vueling show 12,404 people used the three-times-weekly Barcelona flight from its launch in March to the end of July. This varies from 1,489 in May to 6,202 in July.

The airline currently flies to Barcelona on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays or Sundays, depending on the time of year, on 180-seater Airbus A320 aircraft.

Support

A smaller plane will be used from later this year to help reduce costs, the 150-seater A319.

Mr Suarez said new routes in a new country often needed “a bit of time to mature”.

“A better economic situation in Spain could have helped us as well, since approximately one-third of the bookings on this route are made in Spain,” he said.

On Wednesday, Vueling reported a net profit of €7.7m in the second quarter of this year, €4.1m higher than the same time last year.

Cardiff Airport said it would be “delighted” if Vueling offered more flights.

“We are in constant discussions with airlines to persuade them to operate from Cardiff but Welsh passengers need to support those routes,” said a spokeswoman.

The airport has said it is working to build on the recent success of attracting three new carriers.

They are Vueling; Helvetic, operating flights to Zurich; and Cosmos, operating flights to Orlando.

Sourced by BBC Wales

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