More UK flights from Cardiff Airport explored

By Brian Meechan
BBC Wales business correspondent


New flights are being proposed by the Welsh Government from Cardiff Airport to nine locations including Manchester, London and Aberdeen.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates is working with the UK government and European Commission to "impose a number of public service obligations routes".

These are exempt from Air Passenger Duty (APD) and remove £26 from the cost of a return journey.

It would allow airlines to operate exclusively on routes for four years.

Services are expected to start in spring 2019 if carriers take up the contracts.

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The Welsh Government said it would provide frequent flights to vital parts of the UK offering business opportunities and boosting the economy.

Some of the routes suggested such as Cardiff to London and Norwich have already been tried by commercial operators and failed due to disappointing passenger numbers.

FlyBe was unable to make flights to London City Airport sustainable despite them already being significantly cheaper than most rail tickets for the journey.

Other flights such as Cardiff-Glasgow already have a daily return but ministers want to increase that to twice daily.

Business people often highlight the frequency of service as an important factor in flying as many would like to go to locations and return on the same day.

Routes to Manchester, Leeds Bradford and Inverness have not been available before.

The Welsh Government expects the lack of APD and the four year exclusivity to be enough of an incentive to attract airlines.

Other than a "modest marketing budget" there will be no further subsidy for the routes.

Cardiff Airport chief executive Deb Barber welcomed the announcement.

"It is good news to see the ambition to develop more air connectivity between Wales and the rest of the UK, which has the potential to create business and UK-wide tourism opportunities and we give this initiative our full support," she said.

If they prove successful, ministers will consider other destinations including in Europe and other airports in Wales.

'Large scale CO2 change needed'

Ian Price, director of CBI Wales, said: "Strong global and domestic aviation capacity will prove critical in addressing many of the economic challenges Wales faces, and it is encouraging to see developments in this area."

He said businesses would also want to see a sound economic case was made for any and all investment of taxpayer funds in these initiatives.

Mr Skates said CO2 emissions on the nine proposed routes had been investigated and "were not considered to be materially different" to similar car or train journeys relative to passenger numbers.

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales said carbon emission reduction targets required "large scale change".

"Because over 50% of emissions in Wales are from a few large emitters it means Wales has to work harder to reduce emissions in other areas such as transport and housing," she said.

Friends of the Earth Cymru said it was "disappointing" the Welsh Government was promoting and incentivising short-haul aviation.

"The cost of flying should reflect the whole cost, including the cost to the climate," said director Haf Elgar.

"Scrapping Air Passenger Duty on these routes will make a high-carbon option cheaper instead of encouraging other forms of travelling and working - contrary to our aims to be a low-carbon economy and nation."

The tender to run the Cardiff to Anglesey flight is to be launched in June after two failures by operators in recent years.

The Welsh Government said it was looking for a long-term operator who will improve services following a 40% growth in passengers in the last 12 months.

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