Cardiff needs "clear and coherent vision"

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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