With the abrupt departure last week of embattled TBI Albertis’ Manager Patrick Duffy, Cardiff Airport now begins the difficult task of rebuilding airline routes, services, facilities and business traveller confidence. For the last decade it has been both an embarrassment and running joke of an airport having lost another 13% of its passengers in 2011. An airport that was once worth upwards of £200 million pounds, handled four regular daily-service carriers (sorry sun and booze charter operators can fly from any airport) and 2 million+ business travellers relied on in the past, handled just over 1.2 million travellers in the last year.
Having travelled a week ago to the USA, it was far less of a hassle to commute to London Heathrow Airport where travel options were in the 10s vs the one flight with a six-hour layover to an airport 40 miles outside of Washington via a counter-intuitive opposite direction connection over Amsterdam. And yet the self-serving promotional e-mails for this failed airport and its one remaining international airline, KLM, continue to clutter my In Box offering fares and routes far more convoluted and 40% higher.
Worth just £30 million pounds today, the future of the airport remains in the hands of an owner/operator that could just sell and run to avoid the stain and embarrassment of this airport’s failure. Too, the facility’s growing inability to work with the Welsh Government and local businesses now has the airport’s existence hangs on a knife’s edge as TBI Albertis now have a facility worth only a fraction of its high water mark valuation.
Whilst we in the media members will miss the lengthy and colourful e-mail complaint exchanges with the former MD, it took the walls collapsing inward on him for Mr. Duffy to finally stopped digging. Now that the government’s piling on has successfully removed him, what does First Minister Carwyn Jones and this government propose doing to make this airport relevant… beyond paying Delta £10 million pounds a year for a turnaround transatlantic flight to JFK or Atlanta (when Continental/United recently abandoned a much busier Bristol Airport for a lack of traffic?) Simply, without airlines flying to the places business travellers NEED to fly, you do not have an airport. Airports bring more than holiday visitors, they affect business location decisions in Wales.
So will there be immediate action by the business community and Welsh Government or will we wait another six months for an executive search and new MD to assume the position and get their bearings thereby ensuring the loss of another 120K+ passengers? And will we see real dialogue and solutions or more corporate petulance and SPIN?
Or is it as we feared, neither the Ryder Cup nor a few Olympic football matches could save this 1930s era Quonset hut of an airfield masquerading as an international airport?
Denis G Campbell is the author of 6 books including 'Billionaire Boys Election Freak Show,' 'The Vagina Wars' & 'Egypt Unsh@ckled.' He is the editor of UK Progressive Magazine and provides commentary to the BBC, itv Al Jazeera English, CNN, MSNBC and others. His weekly 'World View with Denis Campbell' segment can be heard every Thursday on the globally syndicated The David Pakman Show. You can follow him on Twitter via @UKProgressive and on Facebook.
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