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.”