No intention to sell off Cardiff Airport, says FM Mark Drakeford

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Cardiff Airport sign
Image caption,
Cardiff Airport is owned by the Welsh Government

There are no plans to sell off Cardiff Airport, the first minister has said.

The Conservatives have called for the airport to be returned to the private sector after ministers agreed new borrowing of up to £21.2m in cash.

But Mark Drakeford says Wales would have been one of only two capitals in the world without an airport if it was not bought by Welsh ministers in 2013.

The new loan was announced earlier this week - bringing the total amount of cash the airport can borrow from the Welsh Government to £59.4m.

It was former first minister Carwyn Jones who took the airport out of private hands six years ago for £53m, after passenger numbers slumped.

More recently officials told AMs that, under the way it is currently run, the airport may always need public support.

Criticism mounted following financial results that showed pre-tax losses - Tory AM Darren Millar claimed the airport was a "vanity project".

Image caption,
Mark Drakeford said Cardiff Airport's public ownership is not unusual

Mr Drakeford defended the Welsh Government's strategy at the committee for the scrutiny of the first minister on Friday.

"I think I'm told we would be only one of two capitals in the world, if we were not to have acted in the way that we did, that didn't have an airport offering connectivity to the rest of the world.

"We continue to be strongly supportive of the course of action we have taken, prepare to back it up with funding and have no intention of selling it off."

He said only 14% of airports with scheduled flights in the world are privately owned.

"Our model in Wales is absolutely mainstream, it puts us in the same position as JFK in New York or Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

"Around the world governments recognise that a successful airport is an investment on behalf of the economy and the population of that area."

Cardiff Airport has boasted of increased passenger numbers since 2013, with the Rhoose-based business attracting around 1.7m passengers a year.