South East Wales

Cardiff Airport 'central' to Flybe's five-year plan

Flybe plane
Image caption Flybe was responsible for over 430,000 passengers using Cardiff Airport last year

Cardiff Airport will be at the centre of Flybe's five-year business plan, its new chief executive has revealed.

Christine Ourmieres-Widener had previously said she planned to "stop unprofitable flying" to reduce the airline's losses.

This led to concerns that services would be reduced at Cardiff.

But Ms Ourmieres-Widener told BBC Wales they were looking at "new charter opportunities" for the airport.

Image caption Ms Ourmieres-Widener took over the chief executive role in January

Flybe's increase in routes played a major part in a 16% rise in passenger numbers last year at Cardiff Airport.

The airline currently operates 18 routes out of the airport, including major hubs like Dublin, Paris and Berlin, which allows passengers to fly on to other locations.

When Ms Ourmieres-Widener took over as chief executive, she said the airline would have to change how it operates in order to reduce losses.

She will unveil a five-year business plan in the summer and said Cardiff Airport would be at the centre of it.

"We are looking at new opportunities with the airport," she said, including "charter opportunities, maybe for next winter or next summer".

She added: "We are always studying new opportunities with the airport and the marketing team is working very well with us."

Image caption Debra Barber said airport's relationship with Flybe will continue to go from "strength to strength"

Cardiff Airport chief executive Debra Barber said it was always a concern when there is a change in a senior team of an airline.

"You do wonder what's going to happen, but I think we've got a really strong partnership with Flybe," she said.

She added Ms Ourmieres-Widener has "some fantastic plans for the airline and is looking at different ways of doing business".

Challenges remain for Flybe though.

Its website and booking system has faced criticism and Ms Ourmieres-Widener accepts it needs to improve. She plans to invest significant sums of money to overhaul what it offers online and through apps.

Flybe's also facing stiff competition from rail companies including from First Great Western, which runs the London to Cardiff service.

Ms Ourmieres-Widener said the performance of flights from Cardiff to London City airport was "fine" but she would like to see more passengers using the service.

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