'Devolve air tax' call from Cardiff airport head

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMr Lewis said the move was vital in helping to build a sustainable business at the airport

Cardiff airport's chairman has called on the UK government to devolve passenger air taxes to Wales, in a bid to boost its business.

Roger Lewis was speaking as he marked 100 days in the job, after leaving the Welsh Rugby Union to take up the role.

Air passenger duty is being devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland but remains a sticking point in discussions over new powers for Wales.

Rival airports such as Bristol say it would hand Cardiff an unfair advantage.

"Devolving that responsibility to Wales as it's been devolved to Northern Ireland, to Scotland, is only right and fair," said Mr Lewis.

"I think it will happen, because I think it will actually create a great opportunity not only for the airport, but also for the MRO - maintenance, repair and overhaul sector in Wales."

Image copyright British Airways
Image caption British Airways' Dreamliner will be serviced at its Welsh centre

He said the UK was the second biggest player in the worldwide MRO business, with Wales sharing a 20% slice of that sector.

It includes the flag-carrying giant British Airways, which has recently confirmed its Boeing fleet would be serviced at its centre next to airport, where it employs about 600 people.

"This is so important for Wales, that we have an international airport that connects with that particular sector and that's why I think air passenger duty is part of the play to create a sustainable airport here that can play a broader role beyond passengers," added Mr Lewis.

He said he had held "generous" and "mature" discussions with UK ministers on the issue, including Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, and praised the support from First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Image caption 'All of us in Wales need to fly the Welsh flag' says Roger Lewis

Looking ahead to the coming year, Mr Lewis said he wanted to target "significant passenger growth in 2016", building on a 13% growth in numbers in 2015, and announced the airport would be putting on four more routes with operator Vueling to Spain for the summer.

"It's about increasing the destinations for our passengers, giving them the best prices possible, at times that suit their needs, wrapped in a fabulous passenger experience here at the airport," he said.

More on this story