Cardiff Airport passenger numbers fall by 38,000 in 2014

Cardiff Airport Image copyright Cardiff airport
Image caption The airport was bought by the Welsh government in March 2013 for £52m

The number of passengers using Cardiff Airport fell by 38,000 (3.6%) in 2014 to just over one million, figures show.

Most popular destinations were Spain and the Canary Islands which accounted for 45% of all international air passenger traffic, says a report.

The Welsh government bought the airport in March 2013 for £52m.

A spokesperson said securing new routes had been a "long-term process" and since it purchased the airport, a long period of spiralling decline had ended.

In March, airline Flybe announced it is to operate new routes flying from the airport, creating 50 new jobs.

The fall in figures follows a 4% rise in 2013.

New managing director Debra Barber took over at the airport last August, pledging to attract more airlines and reverse the decline.

The main reason for the fall is the drop in passengers travelling to and from Glasgow and Edinburgh although more routes were announced last month.

Ms Barber said the figures were a reflection of what happened last year and "things were very different now" with a 6% month-on-month increase in March.

"Things move very fast in this industry, this is a progressive, long term journey we're on and there will be dips and growths," she said.

A Welsh government spokesperson added: "Since we purchased Cardiff Airport in March 2013 we have seen an end to a long period of spiralling decline as passenger figures have consistently remained over one million.

"Flybe's recently announced new base operating 11 routes from Cardiff Airport is expected to have a significant impact on passenger numbers."

Image caption Flybe has announced it is launching 11 routes from Cardiff

ANALYSIS by BBC Wales business correspondent Brian Meechan

Buying the airport was a bold move by ministers that raised eyebrows in the business community.

On the one hand, many saw a facility that was in decline.

On the other, some were uncomfortable about the idea of a private company being taken into public ownership.

But the sale went ahead and the Welsh government invested in the site.

Its new management team under chief executive John Horne began the process of transforming the airport.

The plan was to increase passenger numbers by improving the routes offered and by making it a more appealing location with better services.

And it appeared to work at first.

Within a year of the Welsh government taking over, the airport was showing a 9% increase in passengers.

It said it would see 1,080,000 travellers by the end of March 2014 but the rest of that year appears to show a slide in the fortunes of Cardiff Airport.

Since then Mr Horne has been succeeded as managing director by Debra Barber.

Some airlines and routes have gone while new ones have come.

New chairman Roger Lewis is to take over from Lord Rowe-Beddoe.

This is the team that will have to work out what happened in the rest of 2014 to undo a decent start to the Welsh government's ownership.

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