EMBATTLED Cardiff Airport is facing a new threat to passenger numbers.
Bosses at big rival Bristol Airport yesterday unveiled plans for a new hourly bus service direct to it from Swansea.
The capital’s airport has seen a steady decline in passenger numbers in the last five years.
Only last month the Welsh Government said it planned to buy the airport in the hope of helping it move forward to a more successful future. But this latest move will be seen as a devastating blow in the ongoing fight to revive its fortunes.
The Greyhound coach firm, which already operates a hugely popular run between Swansea and Cardiff, will operate the service which will end just metres from Bristol Airport's check-in hall.
End-to-end journey time from Swansea’s Quadrant bus station to Bristol Airport will be just two hours and 45 minutes at off-peak periods.
It is estimated that 700,000 of Bristol’s 5.7 million passengers came from Wales in 2011. This latest move is likely to significantly add to that, possibly causing Cardiff more financial problems.
First’s Marc Reddy described the extension of the service as significant adding: “We believe there is real potential for growth here.’’
Chief executive officer at Bristol Robert Sinclair said he was delighted at the move.
“First has taken this step to enhance connectivity for people and businesses in Wales. This is an exciting new addition to the public transport options available for passengers in an important part of our catchment area.
“The new Greyhound UK service will enable people in South and West Wales to access the extensive range of destinations available from Bristol Airport, including recently announced bmi regional flights to Hamburg and Frankfurt.
“The Greyhound service provides a convenient alternative to much longer journeys to Gatwick or Heathrow. Inbound visitors will also benefit, making it easier to reach venues such as the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and Swansea’s Liberty Stadium for those attending sporting fixtures or concerts.”
The new service will start on Monday, March 11.
The Welsh government announced last month that it intended to buy Cardiff Airport from Abertis, its Spanish owner, in attempt to increase routes and encourage more people through its gates. The deal is expected to be completed in the coming months.
A price has not been announced, but First Minister Carwyn Jones insists a commercial operator will be brought in to run the airport if the sale goes through.
Total passenger numbers were down 13 per cent in 2011 to a little over 1.2 million. There was a further fall in the first half of 2012 to 440,000 from 558,000 — a decline the airport blamed on the departure of low-cost airline bmibaby.
Last week, Conservatives in the Assembly called on the Welsh Government to prove its plan to buy Cardiff Airport would be good value for the taxpayer.
But ministers defended their plans, saying they have public opinion on their side.