First Minister Mark Drakeford insists there is a 'rescue and recovery plan' for Cardiff Airport

Wizz Air has decided to end its flights from Cardiff Airport, withdrawing its last two routes, on 25 January.

Mark Drakeford has strongly defended the Welsh Government’s ownership of Cardiff Airport, following the recent decision from Wizz Air to end its flights from the site.

The First Minister was responding to criticism from the Welsh Conservatives and said there was a "rescue and recovery" plan in place.

However the Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies said there are big questions over how hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent supporting the airport.

The Welsh Government bought Cardiff Airport in 2013 for £52 million.

Speaking in the Senedd chamber on Tuesday (17 January) Mr Davies asked the First Minister if the £225 million invested in the airport by the Welsh Government since 2013 was "money well spent".

He cited passenger figures from competing airports in England like Bristol and Birmingham, claiming Cardiff was being out performed and severely lagging behind.

The Welsh Conservatives said passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport have fallen by 53% since 2019, the latest year unaffected by pandemic restrictions. In contrast, Bristol Airport has seen a reduction of 22% and Birmingham by 35%.

Wizz Air announced it was withdrawing from Cardiff Airport amid "challenging macro-economic environment" and "high operational costs".

The First Minister argued that Civil Aviation Authority figures show passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport increased by more than 50% in March 2020, when the pandemic began.

Mr Davies called on Mr Drakeford to outline a plan of "recovery" to make the site "profitable".

Mr Drakeford said the pandemic has affected the travel industry across the world and this in turn means "the airport faces a much more difficult future". However he highlighted that there is a "rescue and recovery package" in place.

He also claimed the Welsh Conservatives have "never supported the airport" and have "done its best to talk down its chances of success".

"Time after time after time on the floor of the Senedd, I have heard Conservative spokespeople here complain about the airport," the First Minister said.

"They suggest that it shouldn't have been taken into public ownership, and generally undermine the airport's prospects of success."

He added: "I'll just end with this point to the Member, that, when this Senedd sought the devolution of air passenger duty, something that is available, you supported it but your Government didn't support it, did it?

"Your Government refused that request because of its wish to protect Bristol Airport. If there was a level playing field at the UK Government, then we would see different results."

Speaking afterwards, the Welsh Conservative leader said it was clear the First Minister has "no plan" for the airport.

Mr Davies said: "Labour ministers have no idea how to revitalise Cardiff Airport which has been a financial black hole for hard working Welsh taxpayers.

“Since purchasing the airport in 2013, ministers have thrown £225 million at it - this money could have been spent on solving the Welsh A&E crisis. Instead we have fewer flights and falling passenger numbers."

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