I don't think these numbers are a surprise to anyone. Moreover, it's the kind of news story I expect to be seeing every year for the foreseeable future.The airport says Thomas Cook's collapse, Brexit, and rising aviation fuel costs are all adding to a tricky trading picturewww.walesonline.co.uk
Cardiff's terminal was designed and built in the 1960's, and the fact it's still operational nearly 60 years later is great testament to successive management teams. The 1960's aviation scene is a world away from the one we know today though. Even with the growth of sunshine holidays at the time and many charters operating, numbers were still very low and a different kind of customer, expecting a different experience used the terminal. Passengers at the time paid a relatively large sum for their flights and expected an appropriate level of service from the moment they stepped into the terminal to the moment they arrived back on Welsh soil. The airport design therefore, wasn't centered on milking the ancillary revenue streams that all modern airports rely on to thrive.
One of the more important changes that has happened at CWL over the years is the routing of all departing passengers through duty free. Encouraging passengers to make those impulse purchases, for which the airport takes a cut, is THE business model for a modern airport. In fact, a captive customer base already open to spoiling themselves as they see the airport as an extension of their holiday is the reason the beer house can charge £6 for a pint of Strongbow and still make strong sales.
Wherever you sit in Bristol for example, (an over used example in this form, but they do it well) there is always a shop within your eye line. Looking around the shops becomes a way to pass the time in of itself. Once you pass through duty free in Cardiff however, the opportunities for the airport to encourage impulse purchases decreases dramatically. I don't think I've ever seen someone walk back from the lounge to duty free to have another look. The only sales opportunities left come from a generic WHSmith or food outlets.
The new seating area recently opened is an impressive example of how the management has managed to find room in a constrictive design. This whole area however is totally dead space. The last thing an airport wants is for you to be able to sit down, get comfortable, pull your phone out and wait for your flight, yet with nothing encouraging you to do otherwise, that's what happens, and thousands of shopping hours are wasted away in this dead space every day.
And this is where the challenge for CWL is all too clear. In order to make the airport efficient and profitable, a complete redesign of the layout and retail experience that can only come from a new terminal is needed. As a loss making venture with a substantial investment required to make this happen, I can't see many takers, especially when the Welsh Gov seems intent on retaining a 50+1 stake in the airport.
As as government owned piece of infrastructure however, I really do think the simple profit/ loss statistic isn't fit for purpose. Just as all rail and road infrastructure is subject to a value for money assessment, the airport should be too. When considering the economic footprint of the airport is into the hundreds of millions of pounds and sustains thousands of jobs, the airport would no doubt come in as one of the Welsh Govs most prudent expenditures.