Ryanair Returns to Cardiff after Eight Year Absence

The route announcement comes eight years after Ryanair pulled out of Cardiff Airport after it ended an at least daily service from its Dublin headquarters in May 2006.

Irish budget carrier Ryanair is to return to the Welsh market after confirming it will introduce a new link between Cardiff and Tenerife in winter 2014/2015. The new weekly rotation will be launched from October 30, 2014 and will likely generate around 15,000 additional passengers per annum for the UK airport, the gateway to the Welsh capital.

The route announcement comes eight years after Ryanair pulled out of Cardiff Airport after it ended an at least daily service from its Dublin headquarters in May 2006. The budget airline had served the route for five years and was handling over 30,000 passengers per annum but it had a major falling out with the airport’s former management over charges and marketing support and decided to take its business elsewhere, namely Bristol.

Ryanair’s return will see it complement the existing flights of UK leisure carriers Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways on the Cardiff – Tenerife route. The two operators provide a mix of package and seat only deals on the route and together the three airlines will offer around 3,300 seats in each direction on the popular winter sun link.

“We are delighted that Ryanair has chosen Cardiff as its 15th UK departure airport and see this as a major opportunity to increase choice for our customers. This development fits perfectly with our strategy to grow the number of low cost airlines and flights available from Cardiff,” said Jon Horne, chief executive officer, Cardiff Airport.

This is one of several new flights operating from Cardiff since the Welsh Government bought the airport and proves that the airport is becoming a highly attractive proposition for airlines. The Welsh Government completed its purchase of Cardiff Airport for a total investment of £52 million in March 2013 following a period of due diligence and negotiation with TBI, the airport’s previous owner and has fast-tracked a route development strategy to bring back some of the air services it has lost in recent years.

Operations at the airport are currently dominated by charter operators Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways with the airport’s relatively close proximity to Bristol meaning it has found it difficult to attract airlines to what is a reduced catchment market, although in recent years it had successfully attracted Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling.

Since the Welsh Government took control of the facility regional carrier CityJet has launched flights from Cardiff Airport, while a winter ski programme with Flybe operated during the past winter season. Latest schedule data for the current year shows Thomson Airways has a 33.0 per cent share of the total available seats from Cardiff, followed by Thomas Cook Airlines (17.7 per cent) and KLM cityhopper (13.3 per cent). CityJet already has a 10.0 per cent share of capacity, highlighting the important role the operator is playing in boosting the airport’s domestic and international connectivity.

“This announcement [from Ryanair] is excellent news for Cardiff Airport, and clearly demonstrates potential for building the offer of low cost airlines. Ryanair is a major player in this sector so for them to introduce a route at Cardiff will help to build the profile of the airport and attract new customers,” added Edwina Hart, the Welsh Minister for Economy, Science and Transport.

In our analysis below we look at overall scheduled seat capacity at Cardiff Airport over the past ten years. The data shows that after capacity peaked in 2007 it was in decline for the subsequent five years. However, the Welsh Government’s action plan has shown immediate results with growth returning in 2013, and a further rise forecast for 2014.


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