Cardiff criticised for fee hike

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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