Wales

British Airways: No return of flights from Cardiff

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Media captionThe company employs 1,200 people in Wales.

British Airways says it is committed to maintenance and engineering work in Wales but there will be no return to flights from Cardiff airport.

Keith Williams, the airline's chief executive, said the three Welsh facilities - employing 1,200 workers - remain firmly part of its plans.

But aviation expert warns the industry faces fierce competition from Asia.

Mr Williams was visiting Cardiff to address the annual CBI Wales dinner.

It is a sign of how important the aviation industry is to Wales. As well as BA, Airbus and GE Aviation are major employers providing highly-paid, highly-skilled jobs.

World stage

Mr Williams said Wales has a lot to offer to employers in the sector.

"If you look at why we're here it's the facilities but it's also the people. It's the skills that really matter, and not just of today, it's the skills of the future."

Image caption The British Airways maintenance at Cardiff

A new fleet of modern, more technologically advanced planes means BA needs to continually improve the skills of its current workforce.

It is also working with universities and governments with the aim of ensuring the next generation are able to carry out this work.

This week's Pisa results, which showed Wales lagging behind other nations on maths and science tests in schools, have caused concern amongst employers about competing on the world stage.

'Historic advantage'

"When you look at the skills gap, yes it's there but everything I see of people joining the airline, they're fantastic, they are the future," said Mr Williams.

Experts warn though that there are international challenges ahead.

"We have an historic advantage with the industry, but as those airlines grow in Far Eastern markets they will want to build their own aircraft and want to maintain them and some of those makers can provide much lower cost labour than we can," said Martin Evans, an aviation expert from the University of South Wales.

Image caption Keith Williams praised the quality of the staff working for BA in Wales

Having a more highly-skilled workforce is one important way to beat the international competition even if it has cheaper labour costs.

Meanwhile, Keith Williams added that nobody should expect a return to the past for BA with it operating from regional airports.

The low-cost carrier Flybe has dropped two routes from Cardiff airport in January.

BA is expected to replace Flybe's Isle of Man service to London which is also being abandoned.

But Mr Williams ruled out any return to Cardiff airport.

"We exited the regional business about 10 years ago. In fact we sold our business to Flybe which does operate here so it's no longer British Airways business."

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