Cardiff Airport used by Welsh Government Ministers only five times out of 80 for trade missions

Cardiff International Airport,Rhoose,South Wales.Labour ministers on official business rarely use Cardiff Airport, which they bought for £52m, figures uncovered by the Welsh Conservatives confirm.

Some 80 trade missions have been undertaken between May 2011 and November 2014 but just five used Cardiff Airport for ministers and delegates.

Ministers didn’t even fly from Cardiff when they were going to destinations with direct routes from Wales’ state-owned airport like Dusseldorf, Barcelona or Orlando, the material disclosed by Transport Minister Edwina Hart shows.

Cardiff Airport’s map of destinations shows how passengers can fly from Cardiff to more than 100 destinations around the world via Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

Yet on more than 40 trade missions to cities like Washington DC, Istanbul, Dubai, Mumbai and San Francisco, delegates used Heathrow and other UK airports instead of Cardiff.

Heathrow has been used on 49 separate trade missions, representing two-thirds of all trips.

Manchester and Gatwick Airports were used on five occasions while Birmingham used on seven trade missions.

Shadow Transport Minister Byron Davies said: “Welsh Conservatives disagreed with Labour’s decision to spend £52m buying Cardiff Airport but now it is state-owned Welsh ministers should work to improve it and could start by actually using it themselves.

“Labour ministers are not using the airport they bought, even when flying to cities served by direct flights from Cardiff, but at the same time are encouraging and expecting others to use it.

“One of Cardiff Airport’s biggest selling points is the ability to access 100-plus routes via Schiphol in Amsterdam to cities around the globe but it’s difficult to convincingly market this when Labour ministers find it more convenient to fly from Heathrow.

“Cardiff Airport has the potential to be a massive success as a fast-track gateway from Cardiff to the big financial centres in Europe and the powerhouse economies of the USA, India and China as well as the way for overseas tourists to explore Wales.

“Labour ministers must display confidence in their own airport and work to improve the passenger experience, expand routes and attract new airlines.

“Since Cardiff Airport was nationalised we’ve seen a decline in passenger numbers, a number of airlines pulling out and withdrawing routes while Labour ministers seem to sit on their hands.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We use Cardiff Airport whenever practical – indeed, delegates for the trade mission to Berlin in September and this month to Dubai flew from Cardiff Airport.

“We will also be using Cardiff Airport for several other trade missions in the near future, including another trade mission to Dubai for the Arab health event in January. In assessing practicality we consider the overall travel time and the number of changes as well as the cost.”

A Welsh Government source added that companies in North and Mid Wales often fly from Manchester or Birmingham and meet with the rest of the mission at a connecting airport – usually Amsterdam – or the final destination.

“We have negotiated deals to include those flying from other UK airports as part of our group booking to ensure companies can use their most convenient airport at no extra cost,” said the source.

The five listed occasions when ministers used Cardiff Airport involved trips to Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Dubai (twice) and Berlin.

Sourced by Wales Online

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