Wales

Coronavirus: Cardiff Airport 'needs more money from UK government'

Cardiff Airport Image copyright Cardiff Airport
Image caption Cardiff Airport was bought by the Welsh Government in 2013

Cardiff Airport needs more financial assistance from the UK government during the coronavirus pandemic, the Welsh Government has said.

Economy Minister Ken Skates said the airport, owned by the Welsh Government, needed "additional state support" during the coronavirus outbreak.

He said it should "change its policy towards providing further financial help for regional airports".

The UK government said it remained open to discussions.

It comes as the Welsh Government announced it was "repurposing" loans already arranged for the airport.

Part of a £21m loan agreed in September 2019 will now be used by the airport to financially manage the coronavirus pandemic period.

No commercial flights are operating from the airport but it remains open to provide freight, emergency or critical logistical services.

On Thursday, Cardiff Airport said it had reduced its on-site staffing presence to "only the essential cover needed".

It added that "as it stands" it did not plan to make redundancies.

The airport said approximately 150 of its staff were being furloughed from Monday.

It said they would continue to receive their full salary as it will top up the 80% being paid through the UK government's job retention scheme.

Regarding the Welsh Government loan, Mr Skates said: "Cardiff Airport is an important part of our economy and our transport network, and this proactive step will help to protect the airport.

"We will release the minimum amounts of the existing loan arrangement necessary to keep the airport operating, and will ensure it can continue to support the wider response to the outbreak.

"This includes being available for key medical flights and serving the needs of the military and emergency services."

But he said the loan was a "short-term solution for the airport" adding it was not a "sustainable position".

"The UK government has the key lead in supporting the aviation industry and must change its policy towards further financial help for regional airports," he said.

Cardiff Airport CEO Deb Bowen Rees said: "By now drawing down the next part of our commercial loan from the Welsh Government, that was agreed in September last year, we will be in a stronger position to weather the storm presented by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

"As the national airport we are taking the most responsible steps to ensure the long-term strength of the business and our ability to serve Wales."

A UK government spokesman said it had announced a package of measures to support industries, including aviation, which was available in Wales.

He added: "As the UK chancellor and transport secretary have made clear, the UK government remains open to discussions on further cross-sector measures the industry may suggest.

"Any company can approach the UK government as a last resort if, after the comprehensive package we've put in place and considering all other options, it is still in difficulty."

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