Conservatives slam ‘incredibly disappointing’ news as airline reduces Cardiff Airport flights
The Welsh Conservatives have slammed as “incredibly disappointing” the news that Wizz Air is to reduce its flights to Cardiff Airport.
The budget airline has said that it will stop flying to nine destinations from Cardiff Airport this winter – Alicante, Corfu, Heraklion, Faro, Larnaca, Lanzarote, Palma de Mallorca, Sharm el-Sheikh and Tenerife.
Wizz Air said that the routes were no longer “commercially viable” to fly over winter despite being popular over the summer.
The airline also offers flights to Milan and Bucharest from Cardiff.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Asghar MS said it was “incredibly disappointing news for Cardiff Airport which has already seen falling passenger numbers and continues to make a loss”.
“Wales needs an airport that will attract airlines in order to boost the economy and show Wales off to the world,” she said.
“Labour ministers need to monitor the situation and provide urgent clarity as to when the services will resume and what alternative routes are being planned from other airlines.”
Wizz Air bosses said the decision was made to minimise disruption to passengers, who will be informed by email if they are affected.
Ticket-holders will be offered options to either rebook to take their trip this year as planned but from London Gatwick or Luton Airport, or book comparable flights to go next summer from Cardiff.
People will also be offered either a full cash refund or 120% of their ticket cost in airline credit.
Managing director of Wizz Air UK Marion Geoffrey said: “We are very disappointed to have to suspend several routes from Cardiff Airport for the winter season.
“Though these routes have proved popular through the summer season, it would not be commercially viable to continue to operate them through this coming winter due to the challenging macro-economic environment.
“This leaves us with no option but to pause these routes until next spring.
“We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience this will cause customers who already booked flights with us. We are in touch with all affected customers to explain their options.
“It takes time to build up sustainable operations at any base and we are prepared to build up operations at Cardiff over the long term.”
The company set up a new base at Cardiff Airport in December 2020, creating 40 new jobs, with the aim of increasing the airport’s yearly seat capacity by 350,000.
However, it reported growing losses of £381 million in the first quarter of this year, which it said was down to the effect of fuel costs and recent airport disruption.
It said rising demand and ticket prices should ensure a “material operating profit” in the second quarter.
The Welsh Conservatives have long criticised the Welsh Government’s decision to buy Cardiff Airport, which has decreased in value since the purchase was made.
Cardiff Airport has been owned by the Welsh Government since March 2013.
Welsh Government minister Julie James said: “Whilst this is unfortunate timing, the airport board remains positive about its recovery from the pandemic as there continues to be significant demand for travel this year.
“My officials will continue to maintain a close and open dialogue with the airport board and despite this announcement I remain positive for the airport’s recovery and eventual growth.”
In June the Welsh Government said that the decrease in passengers between 2020 and 2021 was due to the continuing Covid pandemic.
“Air transport in Wales was significantly affected in 2020 by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic due to the impact of both domestically imposed travel restrictions and worldwide restrictions,” they said.
“This impact was still seen in 2021 with some travel restrictions still in place, contributing to a further decrease in air passenger numbers.
“The number of passengers using Cardiff Airport fell sharply at the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020. In 2021 passenger numbers decreased by 44% compared with 2020 to 123,000 (Chart 1). This includes both arrivals and departures.”
The Welsh Government also noted that passenger numbers had been rising before the Covid pandemic hit.
“After falling from the peak in 2007, passenger numbers increased between 2014 and 2019,” they said.
“There was then a large decrease in passenger numbers of 87% in 2020 when compared to the previous year, following the start of the coronavirus pandemic.”
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