Cardiff long haul flights plan rejected by commission

PLANS to make Cardiff airport an international hub have been grounded by the Airports Commission.

Transport and business experts had submitted plans to transfer passengers to Cardiff from London and south east England via high speed rail links.

A commission concluded that expansion work at Heathrow and Gatwick were preferable solutions to alleviating increasing demand for international flights.

The Western Gateway Project proposal had hoped to attract more long haul flights to Cardiff Airport, requiring a £250m investment.

Welsh Conservative leader and Regional AM Andrew RT Davies said he considered it a great shame that the potential for expansion at Cardiff Airport was not recognised by the commission.

He said: "“Not only does London and the surrounding area offer limited resources for expansion, certainly beyond those options currently being considered, Cardiff Airport has great potential due to the fact that it has a runway long enough to handle transatlantic flights, something not on offer at Bristol Airport.

“In the long term the Heathrow spur will bring Cardiff just an hour and a half away from the UK capital and it is important that the Welsh Government work hard to make a persuasive case for Cardiff.

“Whilst Welsh Conservatives opposed the £52 million nationalisation of the airport, it would be absolutely criminal if they were to fail to take every opportunity to restore its value and ultimately to return that money to the taxpayer.

“It is clear that the Welsh Government needs a clear strategy for the long term development of Cardiff Airport. Whilst the Cardiff Airport hub plan has been rejected, this report does identify a place for regional airports such as Cardiff in the future to address capacity issues."

The news came in the same week new destinations were added to services at Cardiff Airport with Germany and the Caribbean added to Switzerland.

Europe’s largest airline group has launched a low-cost route to Dusseldorf from Cardiff Airport starting in Spring 2014, while luxury Caribbean tour operator, Sandals, is introducing its first Barbados flight from Wales.

Germanwings, owned by Lufthansa Group, will first take off from Cardiff for Dusseldorf on Saturday, April 5, with flights departing on a weekly basis and prices starting at £75.73 or €89.99. The route is an important strand of the strategy to bring more tourists to Wales, and the airport team has worked closely with Visit Wales, the Welsh Government tourism body, to secure it.

The two-week Sandals flight to the multi-award-winning, luxury all-inclusive operator’s newest resort in Barbados departs on Sunday, March 9.

In addition, P&O Cruises’ new chartered flights to Barbados from Cardiff Airport in January and February 2014 sold out in just a matter of weeks after being launched earlier this year.

This news follows Vueling’s winter programme expansion from Cardiff, with additional flights to Spanish airports, Malaga and Alicante, operating all year round, and Flybe’s addition of ski flights to Chambéry, Lyon, Grenoble and Geneva.

The new services are being delivered alongside an ongoing programme to enhance the overall customer experience at the airport, with more planned improvements to be announced in the coming months.

Cardiff Airport Chief Executive, Jon Horne, said the developments are encouraging.

“The ongoing success we have in attracting new services means the hard work of the team here is paying off. It is also encouraging that airlines and tour operators are making these commitments to Cardiff Airport and Wales and this gives us confidence that we are on track to achieve our longer term goals.”

To book flights to Dusseldorf, call 09062941918 or visit www.germanwings.com. For more information on flights and routes from Cardiff Airport, visit www.cardiff-airport.com

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