“we should aspire to make 2011 the year when Cardiff airport begins to offer a range of important European business city destinations rather than the broadly holiday destinations currently on offer.
Difficult, indeed, when our international business links are withering with the withdrawal of many of the multinational operations that used to populate the Welsh business scene, but essential if we are to build a competitive economy.”
A truly important aspiration for South Wales (as I would expect that North East Wales benefits from the proximity to both Manchester and Liverpool Airports). However, it is an aspiration that is, unfortunately, dying a slow death, as the graph below shows.
From a peak of 2,024,428 passengers in 2006, the number flying from the airport in 2009 had fallen to 1,631,236. This represents a decrease of 19.4 per cent. In contrast, over 5.3 million people now fly from Bristol Airport.
According to the CAA, Cardiff is now the bottom of the league table of "second tier" regional airports in the UK.
The question is whether anyone is interested in doing anything about this abject situation and it is worth reading a recent article from Denis Campbell of UK Progressive which should have started a real debate about the future of our only international airport but didn't.
In fact, the comments from the current managing director seem to be in complete contrast to the detailed Master Plan put forward in 2006 in response to the UK Government's White Paper on the future of aviation in the UK and which outlines how Cardiff Airport could grow over the upcoming years. Indeed, whilst the Master Plan estimated that there would be 3.25 million passengers flying from Cardiff Airport in 2010 and yet the CAA's latest statistics indicate that only 1.42 million did so last year.
The announcement of the new route from Newquay to Cardiff announced this week is obviously better news but it is hardly going to add massively to passenger numbers nor link South Wales to major business centres in Europe.
To put it bluntly, something serious has gone wrong over the last few years. Worst of all, the perception is that very little seems to be done about addressing the decline of the airport.
Given the importance of an international airport to the attraction and retention of foreign direct investors as well as the development of tourism, surely it is time that Cardiff Airport, along with the Welsh Assembly Government and organisations such as Cardiff and Co, to come together to try and solve this problem once and for all.