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Helvetic quits Cardiff Airport

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Page last updated: 30th Mar 2013 - 01:02 PM

The Swiss airline Helvetic recently announced that it was ceasing all of its operations at Cardiff Airport. The airline’s decision is a blow to the Welsh government, which spent half a million pounds promoting Wales as a tourist destination in Switzerland a couple of years ago.

Helvetic flights first started heading to and from Cardiff Airport in 2011, but it soon became apparent that demand was low. As a result, the airline began to stop off at Bristol Airport on the way to Switzerland, and after a while it cut Cardiff out of its winter schedule completely. The latest move will see it stop running flights from Cardiff during the summer schedule as well.

The decision presents a real challenge for the Welsh government, which is currently planning to buy Cardiff Airport from its Spanish owners, the Abertis Group. Helvetic’s cancellation of its operations at Cardiff is the latest disappointment that the airport has experienced over the last few years, falling a dramatic fall in passenger numbers. In 2007, passenger numbers at Cardiff peaked at two million, but now they have fallen to half that amount.

However, the one positive is that Helvetic is still discussing whether to restart its flights in 2014, so it could possibly continue to operate from Cardiff in the future.

If the government does buy the airport, there are talks of creating a new airport on the Severn Estuary that would replace both Cardiff and Bristol airports. The new airport, which could be as big as Gatwick and have two runways, would take a decade to complete and could see as many as 11 million passengers passing through it each year.

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Access scheme given £5m boost

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Page last updated: 14th Jun 2011 - 04:35 PM

Infrastructure around Cardiff Airport could receive a much-needed makeover in the coming months, thanks to a ‘vote of confidence’ from the European Commission (EC). The EC will allow the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to offer the Rhoose hub a one-time 'gift' of £5m.

However, the future of the bursary is in the hands of the Welsh transport minister, Carl Sargeant, who could still subject the proposal to revision.

Cardiff Airport’s access problems became known in late 2010, when Flybe boss, Mike Rutter, said that the quality of roads and railways around the Rhoose hub was giving holidaymakers “an excuse” to travel to other airports in the region, such as Bristol.

Poor access, and indeed, the presence of better-connected rivals, is a major concern for British airports. Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster has endured inadequate local infrastructure since the first flight took off from the Yorkshire hub in 2005, while Stansted Airport has witnessed the defection of several airlines to better-connected airport, Gatwick. Belfast International in Ireland has lost business to rival, Belfast City, due to the latter’s proximity to the centre of Belfast.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Deputy First Minister of the WAG, applied for funding for Cardiff’s access project in March 2011, shortly before his responsibilities were transferred to transport minister, Carl Sargeant.

A link to the M4 motorway is imperative for Cardiff, but improved motorway access may only be part of the solution to the Welsh hub’s woes. Holidaymakers from London and the southeast must travel within ten miles of Bristol Airport to arrive at Cardiff, via the M4. Cardiff, therefore, needs a series of new, unique routes to encourage travellers to eschew the convenience of Bristol Airport, for the novelty of a flight from South Wales.

Unfortunately, as of June 13 2011, the airport’s list of beneficiaries (and inbound airlines) is somewhat lacking, and the access scheme is no closer to realisation than it was in October last year.

The WAG's £5m contribution will represent just 18% of the total £26.5m required to connect the Welsh hub to the M4 motorway. TBI-Abertis, owner of Cardiff Airport, will be expected to find the remaining £21.5m required for the completion of the access project.

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Cardiff needs "clear and coherent vision"

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Page last updated: 27th May 2011 - 02:36 PM

Cardiff Airport is facing a crisis, after budget airline, bmibaby, announced its intention to withdraw from the Vale of Glamorgan hub at the end of the 2011 summer season.

The development, while not immediately life threatening for the airport, has raised questions about Cardiff’s future prospects. Education leader, Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, of the University of Wales, noted that the Rhoose hub has a “critical role” as a driver of the local economy, but a lack of vision amongst airport bosses and local councils has allowed the nearby Bristol Airport to gain an advantage over Cardiff. “The question is, whether anyone is interested in doing anything about this situation”, the professor of enterprise explained.

Cardiff Airport’s popularity is waning: the price of parking spaces is up, and passenger numbers are down. Perhaps even worse, the Welsh hub’s ‘master plan’, a document that outlines bosses’ expectations for the future, has been written off as a failure. The airport had anticipated a high of 3.25m visitors during 2010, but poor transport links and the success of Cardiff's rivals actually prompted a slump in passengers, down to 1.5m visitors by the end of last year.

Alun Cairns, an MP in the Vale of Glamorgan, placed the blame squarely on the collective shoulders of the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG). Mr. Cairns said that Cardiff Airport is operated “effectively and efficiently” by its owner, TBI Abertis. However, a lack of support from the WAG is hindering efforts to create a consortium of supporters and investors, centred on local businesses and councils. “There is an obvious need for a coordinated effort”, Mr. Cairns told the Wales Online website.

The departure of bmibaby will bring about the end of thirty flights a week from Cardiff, including routes to popular ‘sun and sea’ spots, such as Alicante, Malaga, and Palma de Mallorca.

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Cardiff criticised for fee hike

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Page last updated: 2nd Feb 2011 - 02:41 PM

Cardiff Airport’s new website, decked out in its trademark rosy red, is looking somewhat brighter than its owner’s future prospects, after officials at the Welsh hub compensated for the loss of 200,000 annual passengers by ramping up parking fees by 25%. Strangely, the fee, which Cardiff says was enforced by current owner, TBI Abertis, affects only those visitors with the foresight to book their parking space in advance.

The move has exposed an apparent rift between Cardiff Airport and its Spanish owner, with the former recommending that holidaymakers dispense with traditional advice and avoid pre-booking, if they wish to circumvent the charges imposed by Abertis. The airport has since “guaranteed” that all motorists will be accommodated, while discussions take place over the viability of the new fees.

However, loyal customers, Cardiff’s most valuable asset if it wishes to compete with the hugely successful Bristol Airport, are not happy with the airport’s “raft of new fees,” to quote news website, Wales Online. The parking charge bumps a week’s parking up to £81.50, an increase of £58.38 over February 2010. Unlucky travellers could also be hit with Cardiff’s £1 drop-off fee and a £2 trolley hire charge.

David Wallace, a Cardiff Airport regular, said that officials were in danger of "pricing themselves out of the market.”

Local ministers are concerned that Cardiff does not have enough major airlines on its books to prevent customers choosing Bristol over their local airport. Perhaps even worse, the Welsh capital may not have sufficient infrastructure to support a large carrier. Flybe boss, Mike Rutter, warned that airport access roads were not fit for purpose: “to win business from Bristol, which has a bigger capacity marketplace, (the road) has to be better.”

The unbalanced rivalry between Cardiff and Bristol mirrors that of Newcastle and Durham airports in the northeast. Durham, having lost 30% of its passengers to its rival and the recession, introduced a ‘Passenger Facility Fee’ in October 2010, forcing customers to pay £3-6 to pass through security checkpoints. The move, similar to Cardiff’s new parking charge, was universally condemned by travellers.

Gate prices at Cardiff’s car parks remain the same, though the recent VAT rise forced a “slight increase” in the price of all spaces.

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Cardiff unveils new website

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Page last updated: 27th Jan 2011 - 12:15 PM

Earlier this month, Wales’ largest international airport, Cardiff, unveiled its latest website design to the public. The new homepage, which retains its predecessor’s web address and raspberry-and-cream colour scheme, identifies visitors’ needs immediately, before directing them to the appropriate part of the site.

First-time visitors are treated to a number of options, arranged in colourful boxes, detailing a different stage in the often-tedious adventure that is booking a holiday, from ‘planning a trip’ to ‘meeting and greeting.’ Selecting one of the boxes 'leads the user' to the information most relevant to their visit.

However, at first glance, the website appears to take all visitors to the same page, regardless of their selection - a typical sunshine image surrounded by adverts and pretty pink buttons. The newly customised options are (rather unhelpfully) placed at the bottom of the page, a turn of the mouse wheel below the traditional, and far more visible, main menu.

Other new features include a customisable homepage for regular visitors, such as media types and frequent flyers, an “enhanced” booking engine, and the option to share web pages on more than 330 social networking and blogging sites. Visitors can also connect with Cardiff Airport on the hub’s Twitter page, @cardiff_airport.

“We wanted to develop a more modern website which embraces social media channels,” explained Cassie Houghton, PR manager at Cardiff Airport. Cassie noted that the Welsh hub was “greatly encouraged” by customer feedback, and hinted at further development of “mobile applications,” presumably iPhone and Android software, during 2011.

TBI Abertis, the current owner of Cardiff Airport, has also created nearly identical websites for London Luton, Belfast International, and Stockholm Skavsta airports. Cardiff's new website can be found at www.tbicardiffairport.com.

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Surf’s up for domestic flyers

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Page last updated: 26th Nov 2010 - 10:51 AM

Air Southwest, Britain’s “local airline,” to use the carrier’s slogan, is to introduce a daily flight from Cardiff Airport to the comparatively tiny hub, Newquay. The route will begin operating on January 4 2011, with a Bombardier Dash 8-311 likely to be the aeroplane of choice for the half-hour journey.

Newquay Airport, located close to the city of Truro, the largest conurbation in the ceremonial county of Cornwall, handles 450,000 passengers every year, many of whom are UK residents travelling to local attractions such as the Eden Project and Watergate Bay on the famous Cornwall coastline.

Mike Coombes, director at the airline, said that travelling to the southwest by air takes an average three hours less than the road journey, as motorists must drive around the Bristol Channel, and between the Exmoor and Dartmoor National Parks, a journey of almost 200 miles.

“Cornwall is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year,” Mike said. "Newquay is a Mecca for surfing and a great resort for the whole family,” offering “beautiful beaches, wonderful walks and fine food.” The popular Fifteen Cornwall restaurant, a Jamie Oliver-branded outlet, is also in the Newquay area.

Prices for the Cardiff-Newquay route begin at £39 for standard class with an inclusive 20kg of hold luggage. Tickets bought under Air Southwest’s ‘Advantage’ scheme are charged at £115, and come bundled with an extra 10kg baggage allowance, access to executive lounges, and peace from screaming kids, who aren’t allowed into some first class suites.

Air Southwest is a major airline in the south of England, hosting 10 routes from Plymouth Airport, and 9 from Newquay. The carrier also has a sizeable base at Bristol. However, the flight from Cardiff to Newquay is the airline’s first route out of South Wales.

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Helvetic Airways to link Cardiff with Zurich

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Page last updated: 18th Nov 2010 - 12:49 PM

Just a few days after budget airline, BMIbaby, announced a new route from Cardiff to Munich in Germany, Swiss carrier, Helvetic Airways, has unveiled plans to link the Welsh hub to one of the biggest financial centres in the world, Zurich.

Beginning in March 2011, and operating four times a week, Helvetic’s new route is being marketed at business travellers. Cardiff boss, Patrick Duffy, said that Zurich is “one of the most sought-after business destinations from Wales,” and the airport is “delighted” to have Helvetic introduce the connection. Bruno Jans, Director at Helvetic, echoed Patrick’s sentiments, referring to his airline’s latest investment as “just what the market has been looking for.”

Similar to BMIbaby’s Munich route, Helvetic’s Zurich flight is the first of its kind from South Wales. The addition should help the airport compete with neighbouring Bristol International, which offers a route to the Swiss city of Geneva, but not to Zurich. Helvetic is hoping that its fellow Swiss will take advantage of the opportunity to visit Wales during summer 2011.

The country might not have the clement temperatures of the Mediterranean, but its mountainous relief, big leeks, and untamed countryside will be familiar to visitors from Alpine regions of Europe, with the possible exception of the vegetable.

Helvetic will operate a Fokker 100 on the Cardiff-Zurich route. The airliner has 100 seats, as its name suggests, and is relatively rare in world markets, given that Fokker went into bankruptcy in 1996.

The Swiss airline will begin selling tickets (priced at £99, taxes included) for Zurich on November 15 2010. However, the price is described as a “limited offer” on the Cardiff Airport website.

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Munich markets from South Wales

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Page last updated: 12th Nov 2010 - 01:16 PM

Budget airline, BMIbaby, has added a new route between Cardiff Airport and Franz Josef Strauss Airport in Munich, Germany. The connection, the carrier says, is in celebration of eight years of BMIbaby flights from South Wales.

Munich (or München in German), probably best known in the UK for its annual Oktoberfest, and its Champions League-winning football team, Bayern Munich, is the third largest city in Germany. The Bavarian city is famed worldwide for its impressive architecture, which ranges from the ultra-modern, Allianz Arena, which changes colour, to the gothic spires of the Frauenkirche Cathedral, one of the tallest buildings in Munich. Perhaps more importantly, at least for the popularity of BMIbaby’s new route over the winter period, Munich is host to a series of Christmas markets, which will take place between November 26 and December 24 2010.

Flights from Cardiff began operating on a thrice-weekly basis at the end of October. BMIbaby is hoping that in excess of 10,000 people will be tempted by a trip to the “world’s most liveable city,” to quote lifestyle magazine, Monocle.

BMIbaby’s Managing Director, Julian Carr, was “delighted” with the airline’s connection to Munich. “This new route will allow the region to develop strong business links with Germany. It really is an exciting time for the airline in Cardiff.” Mr Carr also said that BMIbaby was “proud” to be able to provide South Wales with new routes and opportunities for “inward investment” from the continent.

The airline is currently the only carrier in the southwest to provide a flight to Munich, which should help the airport snatch customers away from nearby Bristol International. Previously, Bristol Airport’s flights to Innsbruck and Salzburg in Austria were the closest that passengers in Wales could get to Munich, without having to catch the train to London or the North of England.

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Roads must improve, says Flybe

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Page last updated: 1st Oct 2010 - 02:22 PM

Cardiff Airport is at the mercy of local infrastructure, according to budget airline boss Mike Rutter.

Rutter, who is sales and marketing director at Flybe, claims that poor road and motorway access around the Welsh hub is becoming an “excuse” to avoid the airport, affecting both passengers and airlines alike.

“You don’t want to give passengers too many excuses not to use Cardiff Airport,” Mike told WalesOnline earlier this month.

Plans to build a new road between the M4 and Cardiff Airport were recently deemed “too expensive” by the Welsh government and scrapped, prompting Mike’s comments.

The link-way could have opened up lucrative markets in London and the southeast of England, as well as providing travellers with better access to the airport.

Poor infrastructure can prove devastating to airport business. Freight firms struggle to move goods and travellers are more likely to choose a different airport than spend hours negotiating country lanes.

The latter point is especially pertinent in Cardiff, as the larger Bristol International Airport is only an hour’s drive from the Welsh capital.

Yet despite Mike Rutter’s concerns, the amount of money that Flybe squeezes out of Cardiff travellers increased 50% in the year to March 2010.

The airline reported a boom in the number of people flying to Scotland from Cardiff, with Glasgow traffic rising 45%, and a flight to Edinburgh posting an impressive 72% increase in sales.

Cardiff Airport has issued an open invitation for new routes from Flybe, after the carrier announced the purchase of 140 new planes.

Flybe is alleged to be one of just three European airlines to have emerged from the recession in profit, earning £5.7m in the year to March 2010, 98% more than the previous year.

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Cardiff craves new routes

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Page last updated: 5th Aug 2010 - 01:28 PM

Cardiff Airport is keen to ‘examine the possibility’ of a Flybe expansion at the Welsh hub, following news that the carrier wants to buy up to 140 new planes.

Flybe has already secured 35 new jets, at a cost of £850m. The aircraft, which are made by Embraer, are expected to arrive after September 2011.

Jim French, Flybe’s CEO, claims that the airline’s new toys will secure its position as a market leader in Europe. The planes are from Embraer’s E-family, and include the E-175, an 88-seat, low-emission model.

Flybe’s total investment, if it purchases the intended 140 aircraft, is in the region of £3.3bn. The move has been pounced on by airport bosses, who hope that the carrier’s extravagance signals a series of new routes at Flybe bases throughout the UK.

Officials at Liverpool, Birmingham, and most recently, Cardiff airports have been speculating as to what Flybe intends to do with its new aeroplanes.

Mike Rutter, the airline’s CEO, has said that routes to the Channel Islands and Scandinavia could be created, but the executive did not mention which airports would benefit from expansion. Flybe is especially keen to resume a jet service to Guernsey, however, following the route’s cancellation in 2008.

Cardiff Airport boss, Steve Hodgetts, was hopeful – “we welcome any discussions with Flybe about expanding the airline's operation at Cardiff. There is great demand for services to important business and leisure destinations.”

Steve cited Germany and France as key growth locations, and referred to the airline as an “ideal partner.”

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Cardiff-Anglesey service in doubt

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Page last updated: 1st Apr 2010 - 02:29 PM

Highland Airways, an important mainland-to-island carrier, has become the latest company to fall to the recent winter. The airline went into administration on the 24th March, upsetting islanders in Scotland, and throwing the daily Cardiff-Anglesey route into jeopardy. The firm has now ceased trading.

World famous auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, was a hot tip for the administration process as recently as Wednesday night, and the task was eventually handed to the firm’s resident experts, J.B. Cartwright and G.D. Frost, the same people who handled the collapse of Flyglobespan.

Highland Airways, which is based in Inverness, Scotland, offered routes to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Sumburgh Airport on the Shetland Islands, and the little-known town of Benbecula on the island of the same name. The carrier’s route to the island of Anglesey on the Welsh coast was perhaps one of the airline’s biggest money-spinners, however, and a boon to the local economy.

The bleak and blustery nature of its few destinations meant that Highland Airways spent much of the winter besieged by dangerous weather conditions, such as snow and fog. Crippling debts eventually put the airline’s plans on ice, and the firm’s boardroom voted in favour of administration.

PricewaterhouseCoopers wants to offload some services to other airlines, in a bid to keep some routes active – ‘Highland Airways provided a valuable service. We will be working to ensure an orderly handover of services to new operators.’ The firm regretted that the airline’s 100 employees would probably be handed over to the Job Centre, instead.

Highland Airways did not have an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence, otherwise known as ATOL protection, so passengers who hold unused tickets are unlikely to receive a refund. If you used a credit card to book your ticket, however, you may be able to claim back the cost from your bank.

Related Links

Flyglobespan Goes Bust

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Cardiff Airport in £5 million redesign plans

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Page last updated: 5th Feb 2010 - 02:31 PM

Cardiff Airport has announced plans to create an extension to the terminal. The plans have been in the pipeline for some time, but the planning application has finally been submitted to the Vale of Glamorgan Council. Work could begin as early as the end of this year if it is successful.

The plans were first publicly announced last year, with the airport authorities hoping to have the changes in place by this summer. However, the recession got in the way and the plans had to be put on ice for a few months.

But now the wheels are in motion once again, and the council is expected to make its final decision within a matter of months.

The extension to the terminal will be quite extensive, and will cost in the region of £5 million. This would involve the linking of the arrivals and departures halls into a single common area, the addition of numerous food and retail facilities, a more contemporary design to the building and the shifting of the security control area to the first floor.

The plans also include a redesign of the approach area at the front of the terminal, and all of the plans come as part of a bigger £15 million scheme that involves the creation of new infrastructure and a radar system.

The managing director of the airport, Patrick Duffy, said that the aim is to “present a modern statement for the region and increase our commercial activities”. However, he was also keen to point out that the work on the terminal would “not actually increase the demand for airlines” in the area, meaning it would not lead to greater tourism opportunities.

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Bali comes to Cardiff

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Page last updated: 11th Dec 2009 - 11:04 AM

The Indonesian island of Bali, famed for its white beaches and wonky palm trees, is the latest route on offer from Wales’s largest airport, Cardiff. South Wales has not had links with Bali since 1997.

Air France KLM will begin offering a thrice-weekly flight to the island from the 7th December 2009.

Visitors will land at the wonderfully named, Denpesar Ngurah Rai Airport, following a brief stop at Schiphol, Amsterdam.

Previously Welsh tourists had to travel to Heathrow, around 150 miles east of Cardiff, for a flight to Indonesia.

Officials noted shorter queue lengths in South Wales, and urged travellers to avoid Heathrow at all costs.

Spencer Birns, head of development at Cardiff, was keen to boost the appeal of indirect flights - “Travelling to London may appear the better option, but it is often more convenient to fly on connecting flights from Cardiff.”

Mr. Birns went on to conclude that tourists could save up to four hours of travel time by flying from Wales.

Of course, the short break in Holland adds an hour or two to the overall journey, but a few drinks in Schiphol Airport are infinitely more glamorous than a bottle of warm cola on the M4 motorway.

Formed from a merger in May 2004, Air France KLM is now the largest airline in the world, boasting flights to over 900 global destinations. The firm was pleased to have bolstered its links with Indonesia.

Despite being related, Air France and KLM maintain two separate websites. For booking and enquiries, please use the official Cardiff Airport website.

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Cardiff trials biometric gates

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Page last updated: 26th Nov 2009 - 09:58 AM

Cardiff has become the fourth UK airport to adopt the innovative e-Border system, behind London Stansted, Manchester and Bristol.

The system remains voluntary, but the UK Border Agency (UKBA) hopes to furnish a further four airports with the technology over the coming months: namely, Birmingham, Gatwick North, East Midlands and London Luton.

Unique gates, incorporating facial recognition software and automated border controls, form the bulk of the e-Border technology, allowing travellers to bypass security officials completely. The system makes use of the biometric chip embedded in 17m UK passports.

Russell Clements, acting director at Cardiff Airport, was optimistic about the future of biometric screening, “The uptake of use since the launch has been positive with business travellers in particular opting for the more convenient e-passport gate option."

E-Border correlates your facial data with the photograph held on the UKBA database, the same alien creature that lives on your passport’s final page.

New airport security measures have consumed more than £1.2bn over the past year, highlighting a growing need for DIY passport controls.

The installation of a human X-ray machine (better known as the ‘naked scanner’) at Manchester Airport was heralded as an important step forward by proponents, but did little to quell concerns about privacy and traveller modesty.

Fingerprint visas and a liquid scanner, capable of detecting hazardous substances such as nitro-glycerine, a liquid explosive, have also made their debuts at UK airports over the past few months.

Unfortunately, a rise in automated security is making the human race redundant, in more ways than one.

Online check-in services, favoured by the likes of Easyjet and Ryanair, have done for jobs what Margaret Thatcher did for coalmines, and hundreds of airport careers are being lost, never to return again.

Related Links

Manchester Airport Trials 'Naked Scanner'

Bristol Airport Launches £12bn e-Border

Swissport is Getting Coal for Christmas

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African adventure for Welsh airport

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Page last updated: 25th Sep 2009 - 12:45 PM

Thomas Cook has announced two new routes from Cardiff airport – Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, and Monastir, Tunisia. The flights will operate over the winter season, terminating in April next year.

Despite a general downturn in the aviation industry, few UK holidaymakers are content to stay indoors and watch the rain slide down the windows.

Local authorities have noted increasingly strong demand for winter sunshine holidays from south Wales, bucking a trend that has seen passenger numbers drop throughout the UK.

A spokesperson for Thomas Cook, Pete Constanti, was enthusiastic about the new routes: “We are making it as convenient as possible for people to go on holiday. Holidaymakers now have even more destinations to choose from.”

Cardiff is the only international airport in Wales, claiming a huge catchment area. The facility handles some two million customers a year, many of whom travel from towns and cities in western England.

With Christmas not too far on the horizon, the next few months represent for many, the last chance to find a winter break before the end of the year.

Officials are determined to lure tourists away from the larger airports, after last year’s soggy summer drowned the local economy. Thomas Cook has urged Welsh travellers to “escape before the deals do.”

According to Book FHR, a travel information resource, the new flights will commence on the first and sixth of November, travelling to Egypt and Tunisia respectively.

Seven nights in Sharm el Sheikh on a bed and breakfast basis will cost in the region of £340, excluding baggage and taxes.

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Cardiff road plans opposed by National Trust

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Page last updated: 20th Nov 2008 - 09:55 AM

The National Trust has blasted the plans of Cardiff International Airport to construct a new access road. This road, if proposals to build it are accepted, may run next to meadows which are an important part of the local habitat. Furthermore, the road, which will run through the Vale of Glamorgan, may negatively impact upon a beautiful village which has won numerous awards in the past. Currently, three options for the location of the road are being considered, and the Welsh Assembly Government has expressed its desire for local people to make their views known before any final decision is made.

However, for many people living in the Vale of Glamorgan, not one of the three options is satisfactory. The large majority of the inhabitants do not want to see a new road built at all and have already made such views public. Two of the road options are focussed around the A4232 from Junction 33 of the M4 but the third option, which is perhaps the most controversial choice, would see a new road link being built to the south of the M4 junction after the one proposed by the two other potential schemes.

Furthermore, the third option, which was initially proposed in 2003 but faced opposition almost straight away from the Vale council, will entail the construction of a bypass located at Pendoylan, a village which has won numerous awards as a result of its natural beauty and historic importance.

The National Trust believes that Lanlay Meadows, which could be affected by the construction of the road, would be adversely impacted upon. A spokesman for the National Trust revealed that the meadows are a “rare survival of a type of habitat and landscape that would once have been common”. He also expressed his concern about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment.

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Bmibaby reaches milestone in Cardiff

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Page last updated: 7th Nov 2008 - 11:43 AM

This week, Bmibaby celebrated a very special milestone. Two days ago, the airline marked six years at Cardiff airport with several celebratory events aimed at including the passengers who have made its time in the Welsh capital such a success.

Bmibaby has operated 18,000 flights from the airport since arriving in 2002 and has managed to keep approximately three and a half million passengers happy during that time. Part of the appeal of the airline is the wide range of routes offered throughout the year. Popular destinations include Spanish and Portuguese cities such as Malaga and Faro.

However, the airline also transports passengers to destinations closer to home, including Edinburgh and Belfast. As a result of its success, Bmibaby has announced a new route - Geneva will be added to the list of destinations as of the twentieth of December. This is bound to be a popular route and a nice little earner for the airline since it is one of the top ski destinations in Europe. Skiers will be able to choose from five flights a week between Cardiff and Geneva.

Earlier this year, Bmibaby was forced to quash rumours that its services from Cardiff were going to be reduced. The company’s managing director, Crawford Rix, explained that the airline remained “committed to its operation from Cardiff and will continue to offer low fares to exciting destinations”.

Bmibaby is one of the most popular budget airlines in the UK and provides cheap flights to destinations across Europe. Click here for flight information, prices, and online booking.

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Laser danger

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Page last updated: 14th Oct 2008 - 02:06 PM

The union representing pilots (BALPA) has announced that it is only a matter of time before a crash is caused by people using laser pointers to dazzle pilots as they come into land.

There were literally dozens of incidents last year where co-pilots had to assume control after the pilot was temporarily blinded, and in the last month alone a plane landing at Cardiff and one at Edinburgh were involved in potentially fatal incidents. In addition to the temporary blindness, laser attacks can also cause disorientation and uncontrollable sneezing attacks, all-in-all a lethal combination when trying to land a plane.

South Wales police are investigating the incident at Cardiff airport when a laser was shone on a plane at 4,000 feet. Because of the height of the plane it has been difficult to pinpoint the direction from which the light came but the perpetrator, if caught, could find himself facing a prison sentence.

In America there have been 900 incidents in the last four years and the authorities are considering treating offenders as domestic terrorists. At present, offenders face 20 years in prison and a fine of $25,000. Australia too has its fair share of laser users and even the famous Royal Flying Doctor plane complete with patient on board has fallen victim. Offenders in Australia face 5 years in prison if caught.

The lasers, usually imports from China or Russia and designed for astronomy, can be bought over the internet for as little as £10 and there is no doubt that in the wrong hands can be catastrophic.

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Cardiff airport might have suffered eight crashes

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Page last updated: 5th Sep 2008 - 10:35 AM

It’s not an easy job but someone’s got to do it and staff in the air traffic control deck below Cardiff’s International Airport are more than aware of just how tough their job can be. Aviation safety is hot on everyone in the world’s minds at the moment so it comes as quite a stir to hear that reports have come into the public domain in the last few weeks of up to eight near crashes over the skies of the Welsh capital.

The Freedom of Information Act has come into play once again and this time it has led to some rather shocking facts being revealed to the Civil Aviation Authority. There have been reports of very near crashes above the airport when taking off and landing. There have been incidents involving drunken passengers, some of whom have had to be removed from flights. There have also been incidents with bomb scares and hoax terror attacks. An incident in which an Air Traffic Controller was distracted and almost led to two planes colliding mid flight has raised serious questions about the safety of the airport. There was even a case in 2006 of an alleged UFO in the skies, as none of the technical staff on the ground could identify the object.

The Director of Operations at the airport defends Cardiff as having “one of the best safety records in the UK”. However, he is also quick to point out that there will be thorough investigations into the incidents as they strive to be as safe as they can.

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More bad press for Cardiff

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Page last updated: 11th Aug 2008 - 02:45 PM

After the recent embarrassment of having sent three passengers to Turkey instead of Lanzarote following a check-in blunder by Servisair, there is yet more bad press for Cardiff airport.

In this day and age of heightened security and technological advances, it may seem extraordinary that a passenger can travel on the wrong passport. However, that is exactly what happened to a woman flying out to the Canaries on holiday last month.

Andrea Cole, aged 43, was flying out with her mother for a break at her holiday home in Fuerteventura and erroneously picked up her husband’s passport. She succeeded in clearing two lots of check points at Cardiff and another when she reached her destination without being challenged once. The immigration officer at Fuerteventura took the passport from Mrs Cole, looked at the photo and at her, and waved her through.

According to a spokesperson from Cardiff airport, Servisair - the handling agent for Thomas Cook - would have had responsibility for checking the passports both on check-in and prior to getting on to the plane. An investigation is now under way and both Thomas Cook and Servisair have apologised for the apparent breach in security, assuring the public that security is a top priority.

Meanwhile, a holiday maker leaving her hotel in Turkey was given the wrong passport by hotel staff but nevertheless managed to leave Turkey and enter the UK at Manchester airport without the error being noticed. Both the airline and the UK Border Agency have expressed concerns that this could happen and an investigation is under way.

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Check your boarding pass carefully!

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Page last updated: 1st Aug 2008 - 02:00 PM

We have all heard of luggage ending up at the wrong holiday destination but now it seems that passengers can suffer the same fate too! A family from Cardiff has found out the hard way that not only does it help to have paid attention in Geography class but also that you should take nothing at face value and check your boarding pass carefully before stepping on the plane.

Charles Corray had checked in at Cardiff airport with his wife Tania and daughter Phoebe, looking forward to his 5 star all inclusive holiday in Lanzarote. Somehow the check in clerk issued the wrong boarding pass to the family and they had not realised that Bodrum, the destination shown on the card, was in fact in Turkey. As the family had had to get up in the small hours of the morning to catch their flight, they all decided to catch up on their beauty sleep as soon as they boarded. It was not until the plane landed that the air hostess said “Welcome to Turkey!” and the penny dropped. To add insult to injury, the family had to pay £10 a head in visa charges to enter Turkey.

They were able to board the same plane later in the day, for its homeward flight back to Cardiff, where they were put up in a hotel at First Choice’s expense. Although they could have been taken to Luton in a taxi to fly out to Lanzarote for the holiday that they had planned, it would have meant returning to Luton as well on the homeward leg, which did not suit the family, who had paid extra for the convenience of flying from their local airport. They eventually agreed to accept a similar holiday in Ibiza, leaving Cardiff the following day.

Meanwhile First Choice has apologized for the mix-up and confirmed that the Servisair employee has been suspended, pending an enquiry.

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UFO spotted around Cardiff Airport

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Page last updated: 10th Jul 2008 - 02:08 PM

Strange goings on have been reported around Cardiff Airport recently, with a police helicopter unit reporting the sighting of a suspected UFO.

The helicopter crew were above St Athan, which is close to an RAF Base and to Cardiff Airport, but they did not try to give chase to the strange craft or communicate with it in any way. Although various reports were released in the following days claiming that the craft was travelling at speed and the helicopter only just managed to avoid a collision, these remain unconfirmed.

However, just a few days after the sighting had occurred and made headlines around the world, it looked like a possible explanation had been found. A few days before the incident, Lucy and Lyn Thomas had been celebrating their wedding a short distance away from the sightings. As part of the celebrations, about 30 paper lanterns were released into the sky, which had candles inside to give them a strange glowing appearance.

They thought nothing of them until they saw the reports on the internet whilst on their honeymoon in Turkey, when it became clear to them that they were the likely cause of the mysterious sightings.

However, the apparent explanation has failed to prevent a whole host of similar UFO sightings coming out in the days following the original report. One such sighting was made by a Cardiff University doctor of psychology, who saw seven glowing objects above the Brecon Beacons. At present it is not known whether these were part of the same wedding celebrations, or whether they were something altogether more mysterious.

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Cardiff Airport - BMI to cut flights

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Page last updated: 10th Jul 2008 - 02:05 PM

BMI has announced that it is to cut flights from Cardiff Airport this winter, as reported in the South Wales Echo. The decision comes as a result of the recent surges in the cost of oil, and the airline has stated that it needs to act with care in order to protect its long-term future.

Julian Carr, the commercial director of BMI, said that cutbacks were an unfortunate but necessary course of action. He claimed that BMI wants to expand its flights from the airport in the future but that “this winter is not the winter for taking risks.”

He also said that the cutbacks would not be drastic, stating that BMI would focus on reducing the number of flights to existing destinations rather than withdrawing routes entirely. However, as the winter schedule has not yet been finalised, this could still change.

This winter carries on BMI’s pattern of flight reductions from Cardiff over the last few years. Between winter 2006-07 and the following year, the number of flights went down from 150 flights a week to 124. At the moment, only 19 flights have been axed, although this number is expected to increase to the same level as last year’s figures.

BMI has also denied that these cutbacks come in response to Flybe’s arrival at the airport, and states that it is purely in relation to the uncertain economic times posed by oil prices. The fact that both airlines are present is a good thing for customers, according to Steve Hodgetts, the business director of Cardiff Airport. He said: “If bmibaby does choose to cut back from its current frequencies, then Flybe will offer the consumer continued choice.”

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New check-in kiosks installed at Cardiff

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Page last updated: 10th Jul 2008 - 02:02 PM

Passengers travelling through Cardiff Airport could soon experience a far simpler and easier check-in experience, as budget airline Flybe has just become the first company to install self-service check-in kiosks at the airport.

The three new electronic kiosks, which are the same as those that already exist in many other airports across the country, have been praised for their ability to significantly reduce the time needed for checking in. By simply walking up to the screen and entering in your details, the process is completed quickly and painlessly.

A report released last week in relation to electronic check-in kiosks reveals that about 40% of Flybe’s customers have already used such kiosks across the country. Wherever they are used, they lead to faster transit times for passengers and a more pleasant travel experience.

The director of marketing for Flybe, Simon Lilley, said that they are “committed to getting the millions of passengers.... through the check-in process as quickly and efficiently as possible”, whilst adding that the kiosks “minimise queuing and really do speed things up.”

Spencer Birns of Cardiff Airport also praised the installations, saying that they would provide a more enjoyable experience for the thousands of passengers that pass through its gates.

However, the kiosks are only the first development in Flybe’s plans for a revolution in airport check-ins. It has also been revealed that future plans include checking in using your mobile phone, which would cut down on any queuing time whatsoever. All of these technological innovations are set to transform the airline industry over the coming years, helping to cut down on costs and taking the stress out of air travel.

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New flights from Cardiff to Barcelona

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Page last updated: 12th Jun 2008 - 02:29 PM

Cardiff residents who are hoping to jet off for some early summer sunshine will now be considering learning Catalan as bmibaby has recently launched direct flights from Cardiff Airport to Barcelona.

Initial flights will be heading out of the Welsh capital twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but demand is expected to be so great during the summer that from June 18th this will increase to three times per week, with the extra flight being introduced on Wednesdays.

The budget airline, which operates across the country, has stated that Barcelona is already an incredibly popular destination for travellers from its other UK airports, and it was sure that the introduction of the new flight from Cardiff would be warmly received by holidaymakers. What’s more, initial booking figures seem to be proving them right with 95% of the inaugural flight booked out, and they expect the popularity to grow over the summer.

This latest offering from bmibaby comes on top of the 13 other flights that the budget airline operates out of Cardiff Airport, and the addition of Barcelona is expected to go down very well with tourists. It is a fascinating city packed full of beautiful beaches and breathtaking architecture, and as well as being one of the most well known and popular cities in Europe, it also provides a great base for exploring the surrounding area.

370 passengers are expected to travel in the first week to take advantage of the new flight, and with a one-way flight including taxes and fees costing as little as £24.99 many more will be expected to follow.

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New parking charge at Cardiff Airport

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Page last updated: 12th Jun 2008 - 02:26 PM

Those wishing to drop off friends and relatives at Cardiff Airport will soon be hit with a new parking charge at the previously free car park, irrespective of how long their stay is.

The new minimum £1 charge was introduced last week, and has already provoked a storm amongst angry airport users who feel that it is unfair, with some even suggesting that it may lead them to seek out alternative travel options, such as flights from Bristol Airport.

Until the charge was introduced, short stays of up to 20 minutes were free of charge. For people who use the airport frequently, the new fee is seen as another burden. It also comes amidst a campaign by the Welsh Assembly Government to try to attract more business into the country, although the new fees are not likely to help their cause.

However, the airport reacted to the complaints by stating that it had received numerous comments from customers in the past saying that 20 minutes was not enough time to pick people up, and that they would rather pay a small amount and stay for longer. Until this charge was introduced, if customers stayed for over 20 minutes they had to pay £2.40, and so in that sense it will actually be a lot cheaper for many people.

A spokeswoman said: “We’ve researched the market and believe we are providing good value for money in charging £1 for one hour.”

If people simply want to drop passengers off at the front of the building, this can still be done for free. However, waiting around is not permitted due to the increased threat posed by terrorism since the attacks on Glasgow Airport last year.

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Excessive subsidies for flights from Cardiff International Airport

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Page last updated: 14th May 2008 - 01:16 PM

There will be celebrations on Friday at Cardiff International Airport to mark the first anniversary of flights from Cardiff to the Valley, close to Holyhead in Anglesey. The route is the first air service to have bridged the north-south divide in Wales and has been hugely popular carrying over 14,000 passengers over the past twelve months.

As the first year of the service reaches an end, however, there is an increased concern about the amount of subsidies paid out by Welsh taxpayers to fund the flights. It is estimated that taxpayers are currently paying an average of £84 per flight, double the £42 average cost that most passengers pay for the service.

Whilst Colin Munro, flight operator of Highland Airways, has argued that the subsidies have had a positive impact on the lives of many Welsh citizens, others have said that the subsidies are just too excessive. According to Munro, there are people using the service who have never travelled to Cardiff from Anglesey before, and it is the subsidies that are making that happen.

However, environmentalists feel that the government funding is sending out the wrong message, arguing that the money would be better spent funding the north-south Wales rail links. Although Arriva Trans Wales receives more subsidies in total than the air service, it can only afford to subsidise £6.30 of each passenger’s fare.

According to Gordon James, speaking for Friends of the Earth Cymru, it is the poor who are losing out because passengers using the air service can usually afford to pay more in fares. He added that “the balance is wrong… we want to see subsidy going to the north-south rail service, where improvements are needed.”

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