It’s been revealed that Cardiff Airport managing director Patrick Duffy has left his position. He had joined the airport in 2008 after being managing director of the sales division of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The airport confirmed that he left his post and only said that more information regarding a replacement will be announced in the coming weeks.
The airport also announced that a new operations director has been appointed – former RAF group captain Debra Barber. She joined the air force in 1984 and had ten years of experience as an air traffic controller before retiring as an air traffic management force commander. She was responsible for all RAF air traffic units in Britain and across the globe. During her career, Barber has had commercial roles at Iraq’s Basrah International Airport and was involved in military air traffic organisation during 2010′s volcanic ash crisis. She has also been involved in preparations for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Cardiff Airport says Barber will be a key part of their executive team and will be responsible for the operation and continued development of the airport. She says she is delighted to join at this important time in the airport’s history.
Duffy’s departure follows further criticism of the performance at the airport by first minister Carwyn Jones. It has lost almost 800,000 passengers in five years, since reaching a peak in 2007. In an interview on BBC Wales Week In Week Out, the first minister called on the airport’s owners to invest in its future or sell it. He has slammed owner Abertis for the delays in a £26 million investment plan and says the airport gives a bad impression while it falls behind rivals. He has gone as far as to say, in recent months, that he wouldn’t want to welcome visitors to Wales at the airport due to the bad impression.
The first minister has been in talks with potential buyers who are interested in a public-private partnership, with the Welsh government holding a stake. This would allow the government to invest, and it has already offered to fund £5 million for the £26 million investment programme. Abertis has to go ahead with the delayed investment or sell the airport at a reasonable price. He threatens to bring pressure on the firm through the Catalan regional government if nothing changes.
However, the first minister added, he will work with the company if it shows ambition for the country. They need a commitment from Abertis. They have made their commitment and put money on the table. Otherwise, the future of Cardiff Airport isn’t good for the long-term. Although it’s profitable, the owners should sell it to maintain their reputation. They are looking to take over airports in other areas of the world, so he questions if the company wants the publicity surrounding Cardiff Airport.
A spokesperson for the Welsh government said that they have made their position clear about Cardiff Airport. They want to see it become world class, and no-one is satisfied with the current situation.
It seems as though the Spanish owners are open to offers, but it doesn’t have plans to sell. The airport says it has an ongoing investment programme and is proud to have attracted new carriers – including Vueling, the Spanish budget airline. A spokesperson noted that the terminal has the capacity to support as many as three million passengers a year, and their priority right now is to grow traffic and operations so they can better utilise the capacity they have in place.
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