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Plans to restore pre-financial crisis passenger numbers using Cardiff airport are due to be outlined today.
The ambition is a partial return of the Welsh government-owned airport back to the private sector within three years.
The strategy to increase holiday flights and attract more services for business travellers connecting with destinations via hubs such as Schiphol in Amsterdam is due to be outlined by airport chairman Roger Lewis
He will use a letter to stakeholders to outline the plans, which includes the expansion of the airport’s maintenance and repair facilities – already a technical centre for British Airways – and to use adjacent land to build an industrial and commercial zone, the Times reported.
“We aim to create significant value, then go to the market with the blessing of our shareholder to speak to potential equity partners,” Lewis said. “We would expect to have serious conversations in year three.”
With key tenants such as Flybe and BA-owned Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling in place, Lewis said that the airport would expand this year by 9% from 1.16 million passengers last year, with two million the longer-term goal.
Although many of Cardiff’s passengers are holidaymakers, Lewis said that the airport had the opportunity to create an inbound market.
“Ireland has long punched above its weight as a destination and we want to do the same with the Welsh diaspora, as well with the increasing number of international students coming to our eight universities,” he said.
In the longer term, Cardiff should be capable of attracting the type of international carriers to turn round the present travel trend of more than 1.4 million Welsh passengers driving up the M4 each year to the London airports for their long-haul destinations.
“This airport has a major role to play in the wider Welsh economy,” Lewis added.
The Welsh government stepped in and bought the airport in 2013 for £52 million as passenger numbers more than halved from a high of more than two million.
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