Cardiff Airport is being given another £42m of taxpayers cash – and another £40m it owes to the Welsh Government is being written off.
Wales’ minister for the economy and transport Ken Skates MS announced the plans on Thursday 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.
It comes as passenger numbers at the Rhoose site have dropped massively since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Skates said the “impact has been felt at Cardiff Airport as it has been at every other airport across the world”.
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Mr Skates said: “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.”
The Welsh Government purchased the airport back in 2013, and it has since been operated at arm’s length on a commercial basis.
The value of the airport has also been massively written down by £46m, according to Mr Skates’ statement.
Mr Skates said: “The Welsh Government have agreed a financial package to provide support to Cardiff International Airport Limited (CIAL) in the medium term against a five year plan for the rescue and restructure of the airport.
“This Government business support package satisfies the terms of the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement, in particular the provisions around subsidies for the purposes of rescue and restructure.
“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 £42.6 million 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.
“We are also impairing the equity at this time as a prudent step to reflect the loss of value as a result of Covid which amounts to £46.3m. By taking this action we are confident that this will best protect the value of the public investment in the airport and ensure that it is sustainable into the future.”
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The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the aviation industry, with passenger numbers plummeting.
In 2020 global air traffic fell to its lowest level for 17 years while passenger numbers dropped from 4.5bn in 2019 to 1.8bn in 2020.
Cardiff Airport has remained open during the period with large deliveries of PPE flown into the site.
It comes as Cardiff Airport’s newest budget airline recently postponed its launch due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
Wizz Air is to create a permanent base at the Rhoose site providing flights to destinations across Europe and Egypt.
The first flights with the airline were due to depart from Cardiff Airport in March, but owners have now postponed the launch to mid-may.
The budget airline will also create 40 jobs as it brings nine new routes in a much-needed boost for the airport. The airline said the move will also indirectly create 250 further jobs in the supply chain.