Bid for larger Cardiff to Anglesey airlink refused
A Welsh Government bid to boost capacity on the Cardiff to Anglesey air-link has been refused by the UK government, officials have said.
It was hoped security regulations would be relaxed at RAF Valley to allow larger planes.
But AMs on the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee heard that the request has been declined.
One senior official said it is getting to the point that people cannot book to get on to the flight.
The Cardiff to Anglesey air route is subsidised by the Welsh Government by around £1.2m a year.
- Cardiff-Anglesey air link to continue
- More UK flights from Cardiff explored
- Airline suspended for safety reasons
- Cardiff-Anglesey airline loses licence
Written evidence filed with the committee says the government has been pursuing a "derogation of security regulations" at Anglesey Airport - which is part of RAF Valley - with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the UK government's Department for Transport (DfT).
A derogation where an exemption from or relaxation of a rule or law is sought.
If granted, it would allow 30 seat capacity aircraft to be used, resulting in around a 50% increase in available passenger seats fulfilling "the increase in passenger demand that Eastern Airways has experienced over the last 12 months".
"Unfortunately officials have recently been informed that the derogation will not be granted," the evidence said, calling it "extremely disappointing".
Economic Infrastructure director Simon Jones said: "What we're told by the CAA and the DfT is that this is a security issue, not a safety issue.
"I guess with the current security alert status in the UK, there's a concern about the way that planes can be used for terrorist type activities.
"They are particularly concerned about the way that the security arrangements at the airport work, the security arrangements on board the plane as well".
But he added that did not mean the government had not given up hope on securing a derogation in future, or making an investment to make the airport complaint with national airport security standards.
He said it was getting to the point "where people can't book onto the flight at the moment, because we are limited" by the service's 19 seat capacity.
'Unable to book'
"I quite frequently have colleagues tell me they have been unable to book seats on the service because we're full up," he said.
"That's the biggest constraint we've got to growth... the limitations around the size of the plane that we can use at Anglesey airport."
Following the failure of the previous contractor, Eastern Airways has operated the service on a rolling contract and officials intend to tender for a four-year-deal.
This had been held off until the issue was explored, but it is now anticipated that the procurement will go ahead in June.
Eastern Airways, which took on the contract in 2017, has carried 13,845 passengers over the last 12 months, 40% up on the year before.