Cardiff Airport expects 20,000 passengers over Christmas

Cardiff Airport
Image caption About 9,000 passengers will fly in the four days running up to Christmas Day

Cardiff Airport is expecting a boost in passenger numbers through its departure gates over the holiday period.

More than 20,000 people are expected in the two weeks over Christmas and new year, an 18% increase on last year.

The airport puts the rise down to new winter services from airlines Vueling, to Spanish destinations, and Flybe, which offers ski flights.

A new operator has also been secured to replace Flybe on its Glasgow and Paris routes from Cardiff.

CityJet, part of the Air France airline group, will start operating the routes on 20 January.

Airport chief executive Jon Horne said: "This is fantastic news and I'm delighted CityJet has responded so quickly to pick up these vitally important routes from Cardiff Airport.

"We're very pleased that there will be continuity in our services to Glasgow and Paris for the tens of thousands of passengers a year for whom these routes are vital."

In the four days up to Christmas Day, the airport expects about 9,000 passengers to fly - a 24% rise on 2012.

The figures are a boost for the Welsh government-owned facility which saw passenger numbers slump to just below one million in the year to March 2013.

Efforts to increase the number of flights started paying off in May this year when Spanish airline Vueling announced it would now fly from Cardiff to Alicante and Malaga all-year round.

Then in October Flybe said it would offer four new direct ski routes to Geneva, Lyon, Chambray and Grenoble.

However, Flybe said earlier this month it would axe its flights to Paris and Glasgow - before CityJet stepped in.

International hub

Spencer Birns, director of aviation and business development at Cardiff Airport, said the increase in Christmas passengers was "great news for the airport's development as well as for local people wanting more choice and the convenience of flying from Cardiff".

Last week, a commission concluded expanding the airport would not help reduce future demands on flights from London.

Welsh transport experts and business leaders had submitted plans for the airport to become an international hub.

The Airports Commission interim report said there was "little scope" to move increasing demand away from London and south east England to other locations.

The hub proposal for Cardiff airport, called the Western Gateway Project, involved transferring passengers between Cardiff and London within an hour via high speed rail.

It was also announced last week the airport was to receive a £10m loan from ministers to make improvements to its site.

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