Cardiff Airport is in danger of losing more passengers to Bristol and Heathrow after reporting its lowest number of fliers since 2004.
In 2011 Cardiff handled just 1,222,715 passengers, which fell from 1,398,000 in 2010. Elsewhere in the UK passenger numbers are rising, according to figures released by the Civil Aviation Authority. Between 2010 and 2011 there was a 4.1% rise in fliers using UK airports, bringing the total number to 219 million. Cardiff is one of just two airports in the UK to have lost market share last year.
Several factors have contributed to Cardiff’s disappointing number of flight passengers. Cardiff Airport is still feeling the effects of the volcanic ash cloud and the bad weather which brought runways to a halt across the UK multiple times in 2010. In addition to this, fewer consumers have the money to fly in the current economic climate. But the biggest blow to Cardiff Airport was the withdrawal of Bmibaby from its client list in 2011.
A spokesman for Cardiff Airport said: “The decision to operate from a region is based on the economics of the area, due to South Wales being perceived as a smaller and less wealthy region it can appear to be a less viable option for an airline.”
It seems high rates of air passenger duty (APD) could further threaten the future of other airlines at Cardiff. The spokesman added: “In very recent discussions between Cardiff Airport and a leading low cost airline, they stated that unless APD was reduced, remitted or paid by the airport they would not be expanding services in the UK.”
Unless passenger numbers improve, Cardiff’s efforts to boost the airport may be futile. A Cardiff Airport representative said: “In the last 12 months the route development team have attracted three airlines to start operations from Cardiff Airport, namely scheduled airline Helvetic Airways, tour operator Cosmos and leading Spanish low cost airline Vueling.
“However the success of these routes is all dependent on the South Wales public – if they don’t book the seats and fly to these destinations, the airline will stop operating the route.”