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NEWS Last modified on May 2, 2013

Cardiff Airport CEO vows to stop the rot

The new CEO of Cardiff Airport has vowed to recapture some 1.5 million passengers lost to its rivals by boosting the gateway's route network and renewing its customer service offering.

Jon Horne, who has been at Cardiff for less than a month, told Airport World his immediate priority was to stop the airport hemorrhaging passengers to rivals such as Bristol and Birmingham by opening a dialogue with airlines and passengers to find ways to improve its commercial offering.

“We are losing some 1.5 million of our catchment flying from other airports, they are doing this because the choice of destinations hasn’t existed here. We are seeking to redress that, it’s not a five month job, but I am confident that with time we will entice people from the local area to choose Cardiff,” Horne tells Airport World.

The airport saw traffic decline to just over one million passengers in 2012, down 200,000 on 2011 and from a peak of 2 million in 2007. 

Horne revealed that the “lion's share” of the traffic leakage was going to Bristol.

He said it was “fundamentally important” to convey the message that following its acquisition by the Welsh Government, Cardiff is “open for business, and its interests are aligned with those of Wales.”

While Cardiff is now run as a commercial entity at arms length from its new owners, the Welsh Government, Horne does not rule out the possibility the airport could once again be privatized and said “all the cards were on the table” to boost traffic and revenues.

In a swipe at previous Spanish owners TBI, Horne said the previous business model at Cardiff had been 'wrong' but also conceded the airport had suffered as a result of the global recession and winding up of bmi baby in 2012.

'Not broken’

While Cardiff has suffered a loss of traffic for a number of reasons Horne says that the market is fundamentally “not broken.”

“If you look at our under served markets there are plenty of leisure destinations such as Alicante, the Canary islands and Barcelona, where there is potential for more services.”

Horne said that discussions were in progress in Barcelona to promote Wales as a destination and that the airport was also talking to airlines not currently operating to Cardiff Airport.

Revamp and masterplan

Under Horne Cardiff Airport is undergoing a major review, to look at customer service, the relationship with its existing airlines and examining issues such as how to boost non-aeronautical revenues and surface access to the airport.

Cardiff Airport is currently in the process of renovating its arrivals as part of a €589,000 revamp of the airport’s service offering. This includes introducing Welsh landscape and cultural works of art.

Its about creating a welcome to Wales, including upgrading the entire arrivals area, when you arrive into Wales we want people to see culture and landscape of the country as they step into arrivals,” he said.

Meanwhile, Horne says he is also looking at updating Cardiff’s masterplan to ensure the airport continues to recover traffic but is also “fit for purpose” in today’s competitive market. 

In terms of the airport’s commercial and retail options, Cardiff must “lift the entire offering” and the airport management must look at how to support its existing offering.

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