For some time now, Cardiff Airport has been in the headlines although sadly not for good reasons. Our national, and for Argus readers, our local airport has seen declining dwindling numbers of passengers, fewer routes on offer and the airport has slumbered from profit to loss.
Indeed, those numbers make for sobering reading. Passenger numbers declined by 118,000 in the first part of this year compared to the same period last year and the airport reported a loss of £319,000 in 2011.
A task group was established earlier this year by the First Minister and it is pleasing that steps will be taken to improve the airport’s image and the flights on offer. I very much welcome the news that the airport will undergo a rebranding and that a new route to Malaga has been secured.
But the kind of transformation needed means that much more action is required.
Cardiff is our national airport and a national airport providing a wide range of links and a high standard of facilities is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity, especially in an age where national economies are inter-dependent, where global competition can leave countries lagging behind.
Of course there are would be local benefits to a revamped Cardiff Airport.
Many readers will travel to Bristol or Birmingham or even one of the London airports for their annual holiday. If Cardiff expands with greater choice for the people of Gwent, I’m sure the added convenience would be greatly welcomed.
It’s clear that a face-lift would not be sufficient and that’s why Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales, are calling for a public stake in the airport. The airport was in public hands until 1995 and it is our firmly held view that a public stake would result in the airport working in the public interest; providing a better service and better links that will benefits holiday-makers and help boost our country’s economic prospects.
There’s nothing new in governments holding stakes in airports. In Denmark, the capital’s airport is 40% government owned, and despite strict European regulations on such ownership, it clearly can be done.
This could ensure that the guiding principles of our national airport would be more resources for route development, funding to improve facilities, attracting business customers and foreign companies, who will then bring investment. I look forward to the First Minister’s Task Group considering our suggestions.