A campaign has been launched to help attract more airlines and routes to Cardiff Airport, which is at risk of ‘withering away’ or ‘dying’.
As Cardiff Airport’s only current low-cost airline BMI Baby prepares to cease operations at the gateway in October, a new campaign group, – Fly Cardiff – is putting pressure on the airport and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to attract more airlines and routes to the capital city.
The petition has also been set up to put pressure on the Welsh government to invest more in new services and infrastructure at the airport.
The departure of BMI Baby will leave Wales and its travelling public without a low-cost operator flying to European destinations, and the only alternative for passengers will be to travel outside of Wales for cheap flights abroad.
Fly Cardiff said it aims to work alongside the airport and act as a bridge between it, its passengers and WAG in attracting more airlines and business into Cardiff Airport, the city of Cardiff and the wider South Wales communities.
The group said: “This situation cannot be allowed to continue, Wales deserves a full and proper air service to European and International destinations.
“Why should the Welsh travelling public have to travel to England to access flights? What does it say to the International tourist when they cannot fly directly to the country they wish to visit, but can only access Wales from airports outside the principality?
“We are not anti-airport or against the management, we merely want the same services being offered to our English counterparts in Bristol or Birmingham and as a capital city cannot understand how the situation has been allowed to escalate.”
The petition was launched a month ago by founder Kelvin Hayes, and has so far acquired 208 signatures.
Hayes said: “We are a pressure group of sorts, tasked with saving a dying airport. We have done all we can so far, and we hope that the airport will acquire new routes and airlines when it attends the next Route Development Forum in Berlin.
“We are working closely with another campaign group called Welsh Air Network, which is fighting for the same cause, but we must do something fast as Bristol is surging ahead.”
A facebook page has also been created as part of the campaign and has so far been ‘liked’ by high profile figures such as Michael O'Leary, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and Richard Branson. In addition the cause has 417 followers on Twitter.
In a recent radio interview, Patrick Duffy, the airport's managing director said that although he shared some of the campaign’s interests he also believed “airlines and routes were not airport problems.”
However, a spokesperson for Cardiff Airport said: “We fully support this petition and the campaign. We all want the same thing at the end of the day. The airport is in ongoing talks with various airlines which should open all sorts of doors for us.
“But ultimately we are not in conflict with groups like Fly Cardiff – what they are trying to achieve we are trying to achieve so we obviously welcome it.”
In 2010, passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport fell by 14%, and supporters of the petition want to see more airlines and routes to save what the gateway from “withering away.”
Judith Cole, a supporter of the campaign, said: “The airport is dying on its feet and something needs to be done before it’s too late. Bristol airport gets bigger and stronger while the national airport of Wales is slowly withering away.”
Sue McCabe added: “BMI Baby has recently announced its intention to pull out of Cardiff leaving what I consider a huge gap in the market. Ryanair in my opinion should be ‘courted’ as a matter of urgency.”
Many believe the job of saving Cardiff Airport is up to the Welsh government.
Keith Waters, said: “The only way Cardiff Airport will survive - and it is dying - is through massive investment in new services, but more importantly is in the infrastructure to support it – a new road system, new rail and bus links (these are a joke at present), improved parking at realistic prices etc.
“Everything about Cardiff Airport is wrong at present, and it will continue to decline unless the Welsh Government is prepared to put in the cash for the needed infrastructure.”