New Cardiff Airport terminal plan as passenger numbers rise

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Media captionManaging director Debra Barber is looking at significant new routes - and investment

A new terminal could be built at Cardiff Airport over the next 10 years to replace the current building.

Chairman Roger Lewis said he was expecting the private sector to buy a stake in the Welsh Government-owned site as part of the move.

The announcement came following a 16% rise in passenger numbers over the past 12 months, making it "one of the fastest growing airports" in the UK.

More than 1.3 million people used the airport, near Rhoose, in 2016.

Bosses say they target continued growth in 2017 with more routes "at better prices" and at "better times".

"This has given us a great sense of confidence on the journey we're taking. We're heading for some two million passengers a year coming out of Cardiff and our ambition is to get that to three million.

"To achieve that, we'll need to invest significantly in the infrastructure of the airport and without question, we need to improve our terminal facilities.

"Within the planning and discussions is a new terminal for the airport and is something we wish to progress."

He added: "To achieve such significant financial investment we need to look for equity partners within the airport and it's something I'm beginning to discuss with the Welsh Government on how we can attract external private investment in the airport to take the enterprise forward."

Cardiff Airport was bought by the Welsh Government in 2013 for £52m following a slump in passenger numbers.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said: "We welcome this ambitious and long-term vision from the airport to deliver the best possible facilities for the people of Wales and would expect any such ideas, with private sector investment, to form part of the airport's long-term master plan for future growth and improvements."

The airport's 2016 annual report shows:

  • 16% year on year passenger growth
  • More than 1.345 million passengers flying from Cardiff
  • 25% of passengers are visitors to Wales
  • 2,600 people employed
  • Cardiff Airport is worth over £100m to the local economy
  • Airlines fly direct to over 50 destinations
  • Airlines fly to over 900 destinations via 11 hub airports
  • Flybe launched new services to Verona, Berlin and London City Airport
Image caption More than 6,000 people travelled from Cardiff Airport to France for the Euro 2016 football championships. The Wales team are pictured departing from the airport in June

Analysis by Brian Meechan, BBC Wales business correspondent

Ultimately it's an increase in passenger numbers from a very low base. Significant investment has gone in from the Welsh Government, in terms of commercial loans which are now being paid back and it's seeing results.

The airport has ambitious targets of reaching 3m passengers a year and chairman Roger Lewis outlined plans to build a replacement terminal - the current one was built in 1971 - and has already been in talks about private sector investment.

When you look at regional airports around the UK over the last decade, there really has been a split - we've seen the bigger hubs growing like Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham but more struggles at smaller airports, with Plymouth and Blackpool having even stopped commercial flights.

The question is, is Cardiff - with the support of the Welsh Government - equipped to transform itself from being a small airport to joining one of those larger, more successful ones? And that includes Bristol Airport, just across the Severn estuary, which has just announced its own passenger figures - a rise to more than 7.5m in 2016.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said he isn't wedded to the Welsh Government owning all of the airport in future and is not against a private sector partner. But he is not in favour of anything like a 50-50 split.

Debra Barber, managing director and chief operating officer, added that 2016 had seen "significant growth" positioning Cardiff as "one of the fastest growing airports in the UK", according to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Iberia Express will join Cardiff Airport as a new airline in 2017 and introduce flights to Madrid, while new airline Blue Islands will launch a new service to Guernsey over the summer months.

Flybe will begin operating a new service to Rome from March.

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