Concern about Cardiff Airport as coronavirus outbreak hits Flybe

Touchdown at Cardiff Airport. Picture by Clint Budd (CC BY 2.0)

There is concern that Cardiff Airport could suffer a financial hit after operator FlyBe announce it is running out of cash following a slump in bookings caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The airline currently operates a number of flights out of Cardiff Airport but has told the Welsh Government, which owns the airport, that it may not survive.

The Welsh Labour Government announced two days ago that it is considering a further loan of £6.8 million to the airport. Last year, the Welsh Government loaned the airport £21.2m, which was an extension to the £38.2m the airport could already borrow from the Government.

The shadow minister for the economy, Plaid Cymru’s Helen Mary Jones said that the news was concerning.

“The news about Flybe is deeply concerning given the potential knock-on effects for Cardiff airport,” she said.

“I urge the Minister Ken Skates to urgently contact the company and the UK Government to ensure the interest of Cardiff Airport are not lost in the discussions.”

Flybe said that it will need a decision from the UK government about a £100m taxpayers’ loan “in the coming days” or it will not survive until the end of the month.

Flybe was already struggling before the outbreak. Two months ago, the UK government announced a £100m loan agreement, thought to be in the shape of a delay in paying Air Passenger Duty (APD) for three years, that would keep the airline going.

 

Containment

It was confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) today that COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has killed about 3.4 percent of confirmed cases, globally.

However, the global spread of the new type of virus can still be controlled, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday, urging countries to step up containment efforts and measures to protect front-line doctors and nurses.

“Globally, about 3.4 percent of COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected,” he told reporters in Geneva, outlining the main differences between the two respiratory illnesses.

“To summarise, COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu. Transmission does not appear to be driven by people who are not sick, and it causes more severe illness than flu. There are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, and it can be contained, which is why we must do everything we can to contain it.”

‘Duty of care’

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price today urged the Welsh Government to “urgently” declare Coronavirus a notifiable disease.

The Scottish Government, the Northern Ireland government and the Republic of Ireland the Guernsey Government have all formally declared Coronavirus as “notifiable” – which places a legal responsibility on medical professionals to tell health officials of suspected cases immediately – but Wales has not done so.

Wales has its own legislation – the Health Protection (Notification) (Wales) Regulations 2010 – which lists notifiable diseases in its Schedule 1.

Declaring a disease as “notifiable” is also the formal statutory process for monitoring infectious diseases which means certain types of insurance won’t cover losses from it.

The financial consequences of this means that business with certain insurance for disease outbreak will be covered by losses. Business in Wales currently have no such cover.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said it “beggars belief” that the Welsh Government hadn’t already declared Coronavirus a “notifiable disease”.

Mr Price said that in addition to no financial assurances being given to those on zero hours contracts, businesses in Wales were now faced with uncertainty because their insurance wouldn’t cover any losses as a result of the virus because it wasn’t registered as a notifiable disease.

The Plaid Cymru Leader said Welsh Government have a “duty of care and responsibility” and urged them to declare the virus as a “notifiable disease” urgently to “protect people and their livelihoods” and warned the Welsh Government not to be “complacent”.

“As we stand on the brink of a global pandemic it beggars’ belief that the Welsh Government haven’t yet declared that the Coronavirus is a ‘notifiable disease’,” he said.

“The Welsh Government seems to be operating two steps behind the other.

nations at the moment.

“I asked the First Minister yesterday what financial assurances he could give to people on zero hour contracts, agency staff and the self-employed in the event of the disease spreading. Now we find out that businesses in Wales are also at risk becaIt was confirmed by use their insurance won’t cover losses from COVID-19 because it isn’t registered as a notifiable disease.

“The Welsh Government has a duty of care and responsibility to its citizens. We urge them to declare the Coronavirus as a notifiable disease urgently – to both protect people and their livelihoods in the event of a serious outbreak. We can’t be complacent.”

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David Bullock
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David Bullock

Cofiwch bawb: lleiaf i gyd o hedfan sy yna, gorau i gyd i’r blaned.
Anghofiwch Gymru am funud: cau maes awyr Caerdydd yn barhaol fyddai orau i’r Ddaear.

JAY1951
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JAY1951

Ond peidiwch ag anghofio y bydd Cymru a’i phobl yn dal i deithio ac yn mynd i yrru eu ceir i Fryste neu Lundain i fynd ar eu hediad. Ddim cystal i’r blaned, ynte?

Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

Why should Welsh taxpayers subsidise people who wont pay the full economic cost of flying hither and thither with Flybe? Flybe is owned by 2 of the richest airline giants in the world who when they got control of Flybe picked up slots at Heathriw worth hundreds of millions of pounds at no cost. Other businesses are not subsidised by the Welsh government who are going to lose a packet which means my widowed pensioner mother is being forced to pay taxes to subsidise rich people to fly who won’t pay the full cost themselves. If they did Flybe wouldn’t… Read more »

JAY1951
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JAY1951

You can’t fly to London from Cardiff.

Johnny Gamble
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Johnny Gamble

A bottomless pit of cash for Cardiff Airport from the Senedd. If Labour politicians in the Bay are concerned about the well being of Cardiff Airport then blame your wasteminster colleague’s for abstaining on APD being devolved to Wales. Of course the MPs of other parties with the exception of Plaid Cymru also bottle the APD issue in fear of the Bristol Airport Lobby. If anything Bristol Airport should be more concerned with the Coronavirus as compared to Cardiff there are more choices of destinations here.

JAY1951
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JAY1951

Covid-19 is worrying for now but will, eventually, be contained and controlled. Wales will be here after the virus is a tragic part of history.

Wales, in the long term, needs economic success and that means international trade, business and tourist links. Unless Wales is to continue to be considered a suburb of Bristol or a remote region of the UK, CWL is a key component and the Welsh Government is right to support it and grow its connectivity.

When will people start to look further ahead than the next year or two?

John Ellis
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John Ellis

I’ve just been listening to ‘The World Tonight’ on BBC Radio 4, in which they spoke to a journalist seated on a Flybe aircraft due to depart for Belfast. Apparently the flight seems unlikely to take place, and I gather Flybe will probably go into administration imminently. End of an era?

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Companies go bust because their financial numbers don’t stack up. Then they go cap in hand, but with an air of entitlement , for a government handout. No-one sees any irony in this, when captains of industry have bleated on for years about their taxes being too high, uncompetitive, etc yet these same people are often the ones who go on about benefit scroungers and others who are among our genuinely disadvantaged. Can anyone tell me why big business deserves to be propped up but the unemployed and the sick have to go through the tortuous maze of Universal Credit… Read more »

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Postscript : extract from John Dixon’s excellent Borthlas blog –

“Paying people to run loss-making and environmentally damaging flights in order to boost the fortunes of a loss-making airport doesn’t immediately strike me as the best way of meeting what appears to be a very limited demand for travel between the relevant places.”

Summed up neatly and illustrates the painful lack of nous at Cardiff Bay.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

So Flybe has indeed gone under. I took a look at Cardiff Airport’s website and they seem to have been the leading operatot there. Some of their flights – including the north-south shuttle to and from Valley – appear to have been taken on by Eastern Airways, but not many. Something of a blow for Cardiff.

Paul
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Paul

Eastern Airways have been running Ieuan Air for a while now (not sure Flybe ever did?)

BBC News reported that Flybe accounted for around a quarter of Cardiff’s passengers last year. Most of Flybe’s flights from Cardiff were UK domestic, very few were to mainland Europe.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

You may be right about Eastern and the Valley hop. And – from just one glance at the now cancelled flights – it certainly seemed to be the case that Flybe operated primarily within the UK. Flights further afield were unaffected, as the operators were different.

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

People flying domestically around the UK and the owners of Flybe should be paying more APD not less. They are trashing the environment and expecting the rest of us stuck in knackered old trains and traffic jams to pick up the tab. Regional connectivity can be delivered in more ways than suits and co flying around.

Walter Hunt
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Walter Hunt

It’s not going to be a good year for the travel industry! Flybe gone. Who’s next? In 2017 Qatar Airways added Doha- Cardiff- Doha (QR321/QR322) to their portfolio of destination (now 160, mostly in Eurasia). If Qatar Airways find themselves over-extended then Cardiff being smaller and with poorer onward connectivity might be for the chop. If a 3rd runway at LHR is “up in the air” again, are their opportunities for Cardiff for “devolution” of extra capacity for passenger and freight services? The 3rd runway was critical to LHR’s “mission” to become Europe’s premier air freight hub.