Cardiff Airport drop in passenger numbers prompts Tories’ private ownership call

Welsh Government says figures were ‘expected’

Cardiff Airport

The Welsh Conservatives have called for Cardiff Airport to be returned to private ownership after September saw a year-on-year drop in passenger numbers of 7%.

The fall in provisional figures, compiled by the Civil Aviation Authority, was described as “expected” by the Welsh Government, which said the month had been a successful one at the airport for budget airline Vueling.

But an air industry insider said: “This is more bad news for Cardiff Airport – and the figures don’t include the imminent closure of the CityJet route to Glasgow.

“The downward trend is noticeable – in August the passenger numbers were down 8.2% at 135,900. While there was an increase in aircraft movements in September, that can be accounted for by the Nato Summit, which saw additional one-off traffic for smaller aircraft.”

Shadow Transport Minister Byron Davies said: “These reports of a near double digit decline in passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport in the past two months compared to 2013 are deeply concerning. Welsh Conservatives disagreed with Labour’s decision to spend £52m buying Cardiff Airport, but now it is state-owned, Labour ministers must work hard to help it achieve its potential.

“This reported decline in passenger numbers, together with the recent withdrawal of CityJet flights to Glasgow, fails to create the perception of a prospering international airport.

“The sooner Cardiff Airport is returned to private ownership to encourage private sector investment to help ensure its future, the better.”

A spokeswoman for Cardiff Airport said: “September’s passenger numbers are down from September 2013 – this was expected and is a result of some seasonal adjustments by our airline partners.

“Despite the dip in passenger numbers, September was a successful month for Spanish low cost carrier Vueling with overall load factors up and passengers taking advantage of their routes to Alicante, Malaga, Barcelona and Majorca.

“Both KLM and Aer Lingus have also experienced increased load factors, with passengers using the hubs of Amsterdam and Dublin to connect Wales to North America, the Middle East, Asia and beyond.”

Airport managing director Debra Barber said: “We were expecting this slight dip in passengers – it has been caused by airline fleet changes which are not unusual in the industry.

“We have new and additional airlines and service in the form of CityJet and more recently Ryanair, which is returning to Cardiff with a weekly service to Tenerife next week.

“Flybe has announced flights to Geneva for the ski season, there will be more capacity from Thomson to Malaga and P&O is adding further Caribbean cruise flights this winter.”

Sourced from walesonline


Monarch job losses reduced by 200

Monarch job losses reduced by 200The number of job cuts required at Monarch Travel Group as part of a financial turnaround plan has been reduced by 200.

The original estimate of 900 job losses has been reduced to 700 during staff consultation.

This has been achieved with some employees changing their terms and conditions, with others moving from full-time to part-time working.

Two-thirds of the 700 are voluntary redundancies from the group’s 3,300-strong workforce.

Monarch has been able to meet the efficiencies required on 700 rather than 900 job losses within the staffing element of the company’s new business plan, Travel Weekly understands.

As previously reported, talks are continuing between London investment fund Greybull Capital to buy the group from Switzerland’s Mantegazza family in a deal worth £75 million.

Efforts are being made by all parties to ensure a deal can be concluded before Friday when the group’s licence to sell holidays is due to expire.

Sources have voiced confidence that the rescue agreement can be completed this week.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Flights cancelled as Gonzalo tail hits UK

Flights cancelled as Gonzalo tail hits UKImage via Shutterstock

 

Air passengers are being urged to check if their flights are operating today as gales from the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo hit the UK.

About 10% of all flights at Heathrow have been grounded as strong winds are expected, with the 20 biggest carriers affected.

British Airways cancelled flights ahead of the expected severe weather.

The remains of the hurricane are predicted to bring heavy rain and gusts of up to 80 miles per hour in some areas, causing disruption to rush-hour travel.

BA said: “Much of the UK and Northern Europe will experience high winds and heavy rain on Tuesday as a result of the tail-end of Hurricane Gonzalo.

“British Airways has agreed with a request from Heathrow airport and National Air Traffic Services to reduce its schedule at Heathrow as there will be a lower number of aircraft allowed to land each hour for safety reasons.

“Other airports have also reduced the number of aircraft they are able to handle.

“We are sorry that a number of short-haul and domestic flights have been cancelled and others may experience delays as a result of the poor weather. We are working as hard as we can to mitigate any disruption.”

The bad weather compounds trouble for passengers with Lufthansa cancelling a raft of flights due to the latest strike by pilots.

Heathrow said: “Strong winds are forecast for Tuesday and some flights may be subject to delays and cancellations. Please check your flight status with your airline before coming to the airport and leave extra time for your journey to and from the airport.”

P&O Ferries suspended all sailings on the Larne-Cainryan route across the Irish Sea due to severe weather however Dover-Calais services were operating to schedule.

The Met Office, which issued a “yellow” weather warning, said the strongest winds were expected “after the rain clears and winds veer north-westerly through Tuesday morning”.

Gonzalo caused widespread damage and a power blackout when it hit Bermuda last week, with winds of up to 110 miles per hour. The island’s airport re-opened on Sunday afternoon and cruise ship visits are due to resume tomorrow (Wednesday) with a call by Celebrity Infinity.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Flight delay compensation ‘on hold’ until court case decision known

Flight delay compensation 'on hold' until court case decision knownAirline passengers affected by long delays are being forced to wait up to a year to find out if they will receive compensation, leaving thousands out of pocket.

A number of airlines, including British Airways and easyJet, are refusing to pay customers who were delayed because of technical faults until the outcome of an ongoing court case is decided, the Telegraph reported.

Passengers can claim £100-£480 per person for delays of three hours or more, or for cancelled flights, when the airline is at fault under EU rules.

But passengers can’t claim for delays caused by “extraordinary circumstances” such as extreme weather.

The Court of Appeal ruled in June that technical problems must not be considered “extraordinary circumstances”, meaning compensation was still due.

Jet2, the airline involved in the case, appealed to the Supreme Court.

The court is due to decide next month whether to grant the appeal, in which case a full hearing will take place next year. It could take until the end of 2015 to reach a decision.

An easyJet spokesman said it had put all claims on hold until it was clearer whether the case would be heard by the Supreme Court.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


RAF St Athan to be turned into civilian airfield by 2019 under Welsh Government plans

Proposal sparks row as Tory MP claims it would mean demolishing local buildings

MOD RAF St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan

The Welsh Government plans to turn RAF St Athan into a civilian airfield – but already stands accused by a Tory MP of messing the project up.

The RAF is due to hand over operational control of the airfield to private contractors Serco in December, when it will operate seven days a week from 9am to 5pm.

But Conservative MP David Davies says a letter he has received from a UK Government Minister suggests all is not well at St Athan, which forms part of the St Athan-Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone.

Gallery: When RAF St Athan celebrated 75  years (1938 – 2013)

On Monday, the Welsh Government issued a statement saying that Serco had been appointed “to meet the exacting demands of the diverse and growing client base operating from St Athan”.

The statement said: “In operating the Airfield Operating Service (AOS), all aspects of running the airfield are included, from the issue of aviation fuel to the provision of fire cover, ensuring the vehicles are serviceable and able to safely execute the transmission of Air Traffic Control instructions with all its constituent parts.”

Some 28 jobs are being created, including a number for ex-RAF personnel.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart said: “We want the Enterprise Zone to be an ongoing success and I am pleased we have been able to respond to the needs of businesses operating on the Park and ensure they have the environment and infrastructure for growth.”

But Mr Davies, who represents Monmouth, released a letter he has received from Defence Minister Anna Soubry, which says: “Welsh Government officials’ intent was that Serco, their appointed contractor, would provide seven day airfield operating services from July 1, full vesting day. However, as Serco was unable to provide sufficient Air Traffic Control personnel by July 1, the RAF is providing additional control services to enable limited seven day airfield operations.”

Ms Soubry goes on to say that an Instrument Landing System bought by the Welsh Government “can only be fully commissioned once a number of houses and buildings are demolished, as they infringe the Instrument Landing System safety footprint”. The airfield will be functional by 2019.

Monmouth Conservative MP Mr Davies said: “The Welsh Government has a lot of explaining to do. I am aware that they have been going round air shows promising companies they will be able to use St Athan virtually 24/7, yet that is far from the case. It seems that one proposed contract fell through because the company supposed to be supplying air traffic controllers wasn’t able to find enough.

“It also seems the Welsh Government has bought some sophisticated landing gear that it won’t be able to use for five years because there are some buildings in the way. I’ve no idea how much this gear cost, but you can bet it was a great deal more than a SatNav system from Halfords.”

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “We are working with the Ministry of Defence to develop the commercial potential of St Athan airfield. The long-term intention is for St Athan to operate as a civilian airfield from 2019.”

Sourced from walesonline


Lufthansa pilots’ strike expanded to long-haul services

Lufthansa planes

A Lufthansa pilots’ strike on Monday affecting mostly European flights has been expanded to include long-haul destinations on Tuesday.

Pilots on short-haul routes are due to strike from midday Monday for 35 hours, causing the cancellation of 1,450 flights and hitting 200,000 travellers.

Pilots are protesting against plans to alter retirement and pension terms.

German rail travellers also faced cancellations and delays over the weekend as strikes hit the railways

Only about a third of inter-city trains were running. The two strikes are over unrelated issues.

Retirement age

Monday’s Lufthansa strike will be the eighth this year. The union’s decision to also target long-haul services on Tuesday marks a deepening of the dispute.

Last week, the pilot’s union, Vereinigung Cockpit, called out its members at Lufthansa’s budget airline, Germanwings, for a 12-hour stoppage.

“Regrettably Lufthansa has not acted on the compromise proposals of VC after seven strikes now since April this year and is stonewalling,” the union said in a statement.

The union, which represents about 5,400 Lufthansa pilots, is calling on the airline to reconsider its decision to raise the age that they can retire from 55.

The company has offered to retain the scheme for existing members but not to extend it to new recruits.

Monday’s strike is expected to affect affect mostly services in Europe. Lufthansa said it hoped to be able to operate a third of its flights.

Germany’s government is expected to produce a draft law later this year aimed at stopping small numbers of employees paralysing large parts of the country’s infrastructure through strike action.

The train drivers’ strike was over demands by the GDL for a 5% pay for 20,000 drivers and a shorter working week.

Deutsche Bahn has promised normal services will resume on Monday.

The head of the GDL union, Claus Weselsky, said there would be a week-long break before any further strikes.

Sourced from BBC News


Government and CAA urged to help small airports by cutting APD

Government and CAA urged to help small airports by cutting APDThe government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are being urged to do more to help the airports sector by cutting Air Passenger Duty (APD).

The call comes from the Airport Operators Association (AOA) on the day that the final commercial fights operate from Blackpool airport before it shuts.

AOA chief executive, Darren Caplan, said: “Blackpool now joins Manston and Plymouth in the list of commercial airports which have had to close, to the detriment of their local communities and those who work and rely on the airports.

“Smaller airports are crucial for local businesses, inbound and outbound tourism, and in enabling people to visit friends and family across the UK and around the world. In some parts of the country, they are an essential lifeline.”

But he added: “Smaller airports in particular have to cope with increasing fixed costs, required to enable them to fulfil their regulatory obligations.

“They also have to cope with an APD level which is the highest in the world and which goes up every year.

“Families are often having to pay between a quarter and half their fare in APD, which not only affects passenger numbers but also affects route development and the frequency which airlines choose to operate.

“So the AOA is asking for both the CAA and the government to take note.

“We believe in a competitive airport sector, but it is hard to compete with hands tied behind your back. So we call on the CAA as the aviation regulator to help keep costs down in future; and we call on the Treasury to review the impact APD is having on the UK’s connectivity and economy, with a view to reducing it as soon as possible.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


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