Cardiff Airport is being given another £42m after being hit hardest by Covid, the economy and transport minister has said – and another £40m it owes to the Welsh Government is being written off.
Ken Skates MS announced the plans on Wednesday afternoon, adding any delay “would mean the loss of the airport”.
The airport, which the Welsh Government bought for £52m in 2013, will receive a grant of up to £42.6m and separately £42.6m of the airport’s debt will be written off.
“The Welsh Government have agreed a financial package to provide support to Cardiff International Airport Limited in the medium term against a five year plan for the rescue and restructure of the airport,” Mr Skates said.
“We have agreed investment by way of a grant of up to £42.6m which will be given to enable Cardiff Airport to restructure its operations, and secure its long term viability.
“Separately, as sole shareholders of Cardiff Airport, we have made the decision on a purely commercial basis to write off £42.6m of the airports debt.
“This decision maximises the likelihood of recovery of Welsh Government loan investment and delivers the lowest lifetime cost option.
“It provides the best way forward for the Welsh Ministers as sole shareholders of the airport from a commercial perspective.
“As the shareholder, and recognising the importance of this key infrastructure, we have decided to take decisive action now – to delay would mean the loss of the airport and our entire investment.”
It comes as passenger numbers at the airport in Rhoose have dropped significantly since the start of the pandemic.
Global air traffic fell to its lowest level for 17 years in 2020, when passenger numbers plunged from 4.5bn in 2019 to 1.8bn last year, with airlines losing a combined £270bn due to Covid.
A Civil Aviation Authority report shows Cardiff Airport as having the biggest decline over the past year of 87 per cent over any other UK airport.
Mr Skates added: “Under Welsh Government ownership, the airport has been operated at arm’s length on a commercial basis and, up until 12 months ago, had witnessed a significant turnaround in fortunes.
“So much so that since 2013, figures from the Civil Aviation Authority showed that passenger growth at Cardiff Airport had increased by over 50 per cent.
“Within Wales, as elsewhere, COVID-19 has had a catastrophic impact on public transport and we have made additional support available to maintain bus and rail services in Wales.
“The Aviation Industry globally has been hit particularly badly and virtually all passenger flights have been curtailed, airports are deserted and entire fleets have been grounded. That impact has been felt at Cardiff Airport as it has been at every other airport across the world.”