“IT IS time to sell Cardiff Airport,” the Welsh Conservatives have claimed after one major airline announced it is slashing its winter schedule in half.

Budget airline Ryanair says it will make a third fewer flights and serve only half of the routes from Wales’ only international airport compared to last winter, while ramping up services in Bristol.

Flights to Belfast International will also end on November 5 after being introduced this spring.

Malaga in Spain and Faro in Portugal will also be cut from the winter schedule.

Cardiff Airport has continued to run on a commercial basis after being acquired by the Welsh Government in 2013.

Ryanair has chosen to base one of the newest aircraft in its fleet at Bristol Airport this winter, which they say will support more than 1,700 local jobs, including 30 new pilot and cabin crew roles.

Head of communications Jade Kirwan declared: “Ryanair is pleased to announce more growth, investment and jobs for the South West.

“We have had a long and successful relationship with Bristol Airport and the terms are right for us to be able to operate as a low cost airline.

“The number of routes from Cardiff are 50 per cent less than last year, but we have found that most people are willing to travel to Bristol. There is so much going on there and we are happy to be growing our base."

A spokesperson for Cardiff Airport said: "Ryanair’s winter season starts at the end of October where they are now operating a slightly smaller schedule with only two less flights a week from Cardiff.

"Their popular Dublin services from Cardiff remain the same as last winter at four days a week. Emerald Airlines operating as Aer Lingus operates a daily service to Belfast City which is two extra flights a week this winter.

"We look forward to Ryanair announcing their summer '24 schedule from Cardiff in the coming weeks."

'Grinding to a halt'

Commenting on the news, Welsh Conservative shadow transport minister Natasha Asghar MS said it showed Wales was “grinding to a halt”.

“It is concerning that Ryanair are moving operations away from Cardiff Airport. [Welsh] Labour’s transport plans for Wales continue to stall, with blanket 20mph speed limits, bus service cuts and a ban on road building, Labour are grinding Wales to a halt.

“With passenger numbers dwindling at Cardiff Airport and affordable airlines moving away, it is time the Welsh Government swallow their pride and sell the Airport back to the private sector, to a company with a vision and strategy.

“It is just another example in a long list of Labour’s pet projects wasting Welsh taxpayer’s money.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "We're committed to maintaining an airport in Wales because of the benefits it brings to the Welsh economy and its local supply chain."