Bristol Airport flies more Welsh passengers than Cardiff

The figures reveal the scale of the challenge facing the Welsh government as it finalises a deal to buy Cardiff airport from its Spanish owners

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More passengers from Wales use Bristol Airport than Cardiff, provisional figures for 2012's first half indicate.

Figures previously published also showed just over 1m passengers used Cardiff in 2012, down about 200,000 in a year, with nearly 6m at Bristol.

The statistics suggest the scale of the task facing the Welsh government in improving Cardiff Airport's fortunes as ministers finalise a deal to buy it.

The figures are based on a Civil Aviation Authority survey of Bristol.

Start Quote

The danger is that Wales gives special deals on taxation and what have you you, and it won't be on a level playing field”

End Quote George Ferguson Bristol mayor

The newer, provisional figures indicate that slightly more passengers on their way to or from Wales used Bristol than Cardiff in the first six months of 2012.

It is estimated that it amounts to the equivalent of about 1.1m passengers over a year flying from Bristol, having come from or going to places in Wales.

The CAA statistics have been provided to members of the Welsh assembly by Bristol Airport.

The Welsh government is expected to take over Cardiff Airport over the next few months after a slump in passenger numbers from a peak of 2m in 2007.

It is negotiating a price with Spanish owners Abertis and carrying out various checks and balances on the airport's finances.

Bristol Airport Almost 6m passengers used Bristol Airport in 2012

But despite the stronger position of Bristol Airport, the city's first directly-elected mayor is concerned the takeover will create unfair competition.

In an interview for BBC Wales' Sunday Politics Wales, George Ferguson said both airports have their problems, and it would be better if they could work together.

Mr Ferguson said he supported competition, but added: "The danger is that Wales gives special deals on taxation and what have you, and it won't be on a level playing field. So I think that's the fear of Bristol Airport.

"But nevertheless we've got two unsatisfactory airports to my mind. Neither of them are well positioned.

"It would be great - I'm not proposing a [London mayor] Boris [Johnson]-style estuary airport yet but i think it would be great if we combine forces.

"But the problem is that we've got one in private ownership and one that's going to be in public ownership that probably makes that combination more difficult."

The Welsh government said it has appointed a core team of specialist advisors and contractors to assist through the period of due diligence.

A spokesman added: "As we have said repeatedly, it would not be appropriate to make any further comments on the proposed purchase while we undertake that due diligence work.

"If the opportunity arose in the future, we would be happy to explore how the two airports could work together."

Robert Sinclair, chief executive officer at Bristol Airport, said they welcomed the mayor's support for fair competition on a level playing field and his comments on the dangers of "special deals on taxation".

However, he added: "We have also made significant investment to improve public transport access from across the south west and south Wales, and rank as one of the most noise efficient airports in the UK.

"So we take issue with the mayor's view that Bristol Airport is somehow 'unsatisfactory' and badly positioned, neither of which is borne out by analysis of our passenger figures or consideration of environmental impacts."

Cardiff airport has been asked to respond.

Sunday Politics is on BBC One Wales on Sunday from 11:00 GMT.

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