North-south Wales air service subsidy rises to £1.2m
The air service linking north and south Wales will continue for another four years as its annual assembly government subsidy rises from £800,000 to £1.2m.
The current operator Manx2.com has secured the Cardiff-Anglesey contract along with its partner FLM Aviation.
But Liberal Democrats say it is an "environmental and financial outrage".
Anglesey AM and Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said the decision reflected the assembly government's determination to maintain the link.
"This air link joining north and south Wales has proved itself to be an efficient, reliable and popular service," said Mr Jones.
"This service is well used, it is well utilised, and it's a wide range of people - there are business people, people visiting friends and families, people going for tourism opportunities, as well as of course as people from the public sector.
"I think it is justified, simply because we need to maintain good communications between north and south of our country."
Clive McGregor, leader of Anglesey council, welcomed the subsidy, saying it was "good news and brings us certainty for another four years".
He added that Manx2's record has been "excellent so far".
"The hope is that together we can develop the service from Maes Awyr Môn and that destinations such as Dublin and the Isle of Man will be offered in the future," Mr McGregor said.
Isle of Man-based Manx2.com took over running of the route in May after the airline Highland Airways went into administration in March.
It was awarded the new contract after the assembly government out the service out to tender in July.
Manx2.com chairman Noel Hayes said: "As a Celtic neighbour, Manx2.com is delighted to have been chosen to continue the connection between Cardiff and Anglesey.
"With our home base just 50 miles away across the Irish Sea, we're excited about continuing our award-winning Manx service into the future."
The decision was criticised by Welsh Liberal Democrats, who have long opposed the service, which has been dubbed "Ieuan Air" by some after the Anglesey AM and Plaid Cymru leader.
The party's transport spokesperson, Jenny Randerson said: "At a time when families and business are cutting back, it beggars belief that the Labour-Plaid government can waste another £4.8m of taxpayers' money subsidising the Ieuan Air airlink.
"It is an environmental and financial outrage."
The party said it was "simply scandalous" that the new deal also tied in any future assembly government to the service for the next four years.
"The Welsh Liberal Democrats will now look to see what can be done to ensure a future government is free to scrap this wasteful and polluting subsidy," added Ms Randerson.
However, the assembly government has defended the increase in subsidy for the service, which jumps by 50% to £1.2m a year.
A spokesperson said it reflected changes since the first north-south airlink agreement in 2007.
"Since then the costs of operating the service has increased, for example increases in fuel, salary costs, landing charges, etc, the current budget limit reflects these increased costs," added the spokesperson.