Getting passenger numbers to take off is top priority for Cardiff Airport bossPosted: May 19, 2014
By Rupert Hall,
Cardiff International Airport’s chief executive Jon Horne has placed the restoration of passenger numbers to their 2007 level as his top priority.
He told members of the Cardiff Breakfast Club he and his team are working towards how to get back to levels of more than 2,000,000 passengers as it re-establishes the basis of the business’ credibility and puts it on a firm footing to be competitive when talking to other airlines.
Mr Horne said one of the factors which influenced his taking the job again – in March last year, having previously left in 2007 – was the knowledge that there was still a market there despite the airport having suffered badly from both the recession and the business model applied by its previous owners.
He said: “I knew that it would now be run on a commercial basis and that was important.
“Airports operate in a dynamic, competitive, environment so the structure of how the airport was to be run was important.”
On becoming chief executive, Mr Horne told his audience, his priority was to arrest the decline which had been going on for five years.
“It had gone from 2.7m passengers to below a million.
“So, the first priority was to talk to our existing customers, the airlines, and give them the confidence that decline wasn’t going to continue and there was an opportunity for them, going forward, which was vitally important.”
He added: “Ownership had a big part to play in this. It was easy to convince those airlines that there was a future because of the significance of the airport to the Welsh Government.
“There was a long-term perspective on its part and this gave them confidence in what we were doing and a renewed faith in Cardiff airport. Consequently our existing airlines began to add capacity, and passenger numbers started to move in the right direction.”
Referring to customer service Mr Horne said this was a matter of a total transformation of the airport’s appearance which looked like Stalag 13 with a Check Point Charlie at its entrance.
It was, he said, customer-hostile not customer-friendly.
“It needed changing but this couldn’t be instantaneous. Now it’s very different.”
With the restructuring of customer facing services now well under way staff are beginning to realise the part they play in the airport’s future and have risen to that challenge.
Mr Horne said: “Getting that shift into increasing passenger numbers is vitally important for us.
“What we needed was to point to that as evidence when we began talking to new airlines. Airlines are businesses and when they come to an airport they are making an investment, with an inherent risk.
“So having that evidence of the business growing is really important. Prior to this there was a sense the airport was in terminal decline.
“Now, as a result of our discussions with the airline companies we have two new airlines – City Jet and most recently Ryanair who are coming in October with a weekly service to Tenerife.”
Airports, Mr Horne reminded his listeners, are conduits to a market and the people who live within that marketplace.
“We have a great deal of information about that market that we put forward to airlines as part of our commercial approach,” he said.
He added: “Bristol is not the focus of our attention.
“Our focus is about going back to 2007 when we had more than 80% of market share.
“In 2012 it was less than 40% so the key thing is to regain that market share.”
The event at the Cardiff Breakfast Club was sponsored by The Western Mail, law firm Morgan Cole and Lloyds TSB Commercial.
Professor Chris McGuigan of the Life Sciences Hub will speak at the next event on Wednesday June 25 at the St David’s Hotel & Spa.