The First Minister Carwyn Jones flew from Cardiff Airport to North Wales on the anniversary of its purchase by the Welsh Government
First Minister Carwyn Jones said Cardiff Airport must ‘wash its face’ during a tour of the site yesterday ahead of a flight to North Wales.
Mr Jones was given a guided tour of improvement work being carried out at the airport by chief executive Jon Horne who said he and his staff are spending every waking hour working on attracting more airlines.
Yesterday marked exactly a year since the Welsh Government bought Cardiff Airport for £52m.
The First Minister said: “I think it’s important that two years ago this airport was seen as an airport that was on its last legs and that wasn’t a good impression for airlines that wanted to come here.
“Having the airport closed, which is what would have happened in the end, would have been a disaster not only in terms of not having an airport but British Airways were based here and had a maintenance base here.
“It would also have been about Wales’ perception in the world and not having an international airport and that’s true north and south and not just the area around Cardiff.
“An airport can be an important economic driver, the airport is in an enterprise zone together with St Athan.
“There’s been huge interest in bringing aircraft maintenance to these bases and it’s essential to have the airport here.
“It must wash its face, as the terminology has it, it must make a profit and generate money back to the Welsh taxpayer and those who use the airport.
“Of course that takes investment and that is what is happening here now.”Mr Jones welcomed the recent news of rising passenger numbers and said: “The airport now looks as if it is cared for and that’s important in people’s minds.
“There is work taking place to improve the airport and that will really put into people’s minds the fact that the airport is going places.”
Mr Horne said it is fundamentally important that the airport wins more airlines and added: “That is what we spend all our waking hours working on.
“What we want to do is bring back the choice here to Cardiff, that extra capacity that enables the people of Wales to choose Cardiff over other airports and that is what we have begun to do.
“It is a long process that we have just really embarked on.”
Mr Horne said the key to attracting airlines to Cardiff was capacity.
He said: “It’s about putting capacity back in and convincing those airlines that if they bring that capacity here and operate those flights, then those passenger will come and use those flights.”
The airport’s chief executive referred to the success of Spanish budget airline Vueling and added: “They were completely unknown not so long ago in Wales and today they’ve got significantly successful services to destinations such as Palma, Malaga, Alicante and Barcelona and those numbers have been growing.
“They have demonstrated that if you put that choice back in then people will come back and use the airport.
“Improving the environment of the airport, making it more customer friendly adds to that process.”
On the issue of access to the airport the First Minister said that, in comparison to Bristol Airport, Cardiff is in a good place.
Mr Jones said: “We now have the express bus services coming from the city centre and the railway is important for those coming from further west.
“What we are doing is improving Five Mile Lane which is the road that runs from the A48 up from Culverhouse Cross to the outskirts of Barry and to encourage people who are coming from Cardiff itself to use that road as a quicker route.”
The First Minister said the Welsh Government would also be pushing for further action on air passenger duty.
He said: “The Welsh Government’s evidence to the Silk Commission said that we wanted to see air passenger duty devolved to Wales. The Commission itself said that long haul air passenger duty should be devolved, unfortunately the UK Government took the view it shouldn’t be devolved at this time which is a shame because we could do a huge amount with air passenger duty, reduce it, bring more flights into the airport and that would have made a real difference to being able to increase the number of passengers more quickly.”
Sourced from walesonline