European regional carrier, Flybe is to open a new base at Cardiff Airport to launch eight new routes from the Welsh capital. The airline will station a single Embraer 195 at the facility from June 2015 and a second aircraft from September 2015.
The latest development builds on Flybe's growing network of bases, including Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Manchester and Southampton, showing the airline's commitment to improving connectivity across and from the UK.
As part of an internal network study, named ‘Project Blackbird’, Flybe has been looking to find a productive home for its surplus E195 aircraft. Alongside the two aircraft at Cardiff a further seven E195s are seeking solutions under Project Blackbird.
“We are delighted at this 10 year agreement with Cardiff Airport which involves us basing two of these jets there to serve the Welsh market with great value fares and further improving UK regional connectivity,” said Saad Hammad, chief executive officer, Flybe.
The airline already serves three markets from Cardiff: Belfast, Düsseldorf and Jersey. The two based jets will grow the network to eleven destinations with new links to Cork, Dublin, Edinburgh, Faro, Glasgow, Munich, Milan Malpensa, and Paris Charles de Gaulle. Full details of its schedule will be revealed on March 6, 2015 when seats will be put on sale.
"Our customers want greater choice in routes, more frequent services and better value flights. This new Flybe base is most welcome news for our passengers as it will bring new destinations and increased services from a popular great-value airline, as well as creating opportunities to encourage more visitors to come to Wales,” said Lord Rowe-Beddoe, chairman, Cardiff Airport.
Cardiff Airport has become an important gateway, both to the city of Cardiff and the rest of Wales, following significant investment in recent years. Over one million passengers passed through the Airport last year. Cardiff is a vibrant city, where stunning ancient architecture sits harmoniously alongside contemporary developments. Cardiff is the UK's top ranked city for quality of life and boasts a serious passion for world-class culture and sport, creating an atmosphere like no other city.
“We've always said that we want the Airport to be a gateway to Wales, as something that will drive our economy by bringing tourists and business to the country. The new routes to major European destinations as well as the creation of 50 new jobs, demonstrates Flybe's commitment to the Airport and will help to make it the success we know it can be," said First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones.
Flybe has been serving the Cardiff market continuously since 2007 but had significantly reduced its offering in 2014, reducing its share of departure seats from 28.7 per cent in 2013 to just 9.0 in 2014. This had seen it fall from being the second largest carrier by capacity from Cardiff in 2013 to the sixth largest operator. It had previously served Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paris from the airport, but the five other destinations will be new to its network from the Welsh capital.
In the chart, below, we look more closely at the largest airlines serving the Welsh capital by available annual departure seats over the past five years.