When Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, opened its new base at Cardiff Airport with a 10-year agreement in June 2015 the forecast was that it would create 50 new jobs to support the two Embraer jets operating the resultant doubling of routes, including six that were brand new, with an additional half-million extra seats made immediately available for customers in Wales
In just under three years, the airline now employs 62 staff at the airport and has created another 100 indirect jobs in ground handling and engineering support services there. This number will receive another boost at the end of March when a third aircraft arrives for the start of Flybe’s 2018 summer schedule, with an additional 22 Cardiff-based crew needed to support the airline’s expanded operation.
After opening its new base, Flybe rapidly became the airline operating the most flights out of Cardiff Airport by tapping into the 7.7 million people living within a comfortable two hour drive radius, realising a 130% increase in passenger numbers to 31st December 2017, with a similar increase and approximate 50/50 split between inbound and outbound customers. Today, Flybe offers 17 routes from Cardiff, up from its initial 11, with a choice of more than 75 return flights a week to seven countries. This includes a fourth Italian route to Venice, namely a twice-weekly service starting on 27th March, 2018. In addition, Flybe’s franchise partners Eastern Airways and Blue Islands offer four more routes to and from Cardiff.
However, it is not only the growth of Flybe’s direct flights that is of benefit. The airline has codeshare agreements with many long haul airlines that provide convenient onward connections between Cardiff and the rest of the world, giving customers a wealth of extra travel options when booked direct with the relevant international carrier or travel agent. Examples are to Dublin and onwards with Aer Lingus, Paris with Air France and Finnair, Edinburgh and Munich with Etihad, Glasgow with Virgin Atlantic and via Milan with Alitalia.
Vincent Hodder, Flybe’s Chief Strategy Officer comments: "The opening of our new Cardiff base three years ago marked an important milestone for Flybe. It extended our already established presence at Wales’ national airport. We have been pleased with our growth and expansion there to date and with the role we have played to stimulate further growth in the local economy.
“By offering customers an increasing selection of faster, convenient and more affordable options for air travel to and from Wales, customers are discovering it is far more convenient to travel to and from an airport that is close to them rather than drive hours to farther flung airports in England. Offering an attractive selection of destinations to and from local regional airports is our core business. The success of our growth at Cardiff also reflects our recent brand refresh that features the ‘Close to You’ strapline in our marketing messaging. It highlights the leading position and intent we have to continue providing unparalleled air travel to and from the regions. Our increased presence at Cardiff is perfect testament to this.”
Deb Barber, CEO of Cardiff Airport, added: “The opening of Flybe’s base in 2015 played an important part in our journey of recovery and transformation. Since opening, the airline has expanded its choice of routes and added more capacity on existing services, in line with our passenger growth. Today, it’s a key employer in the area, supporting a number of direct and indirect roles, which will be boosted with the arrival of the third aircraft, adding real value to the local economy in South Wales.
“We enjoy a dynamic partnership with Flybe, based on collaboration and a shared vision to offer our customers a choice of destinations, offered at convenient times and priced competitively. As the national airport for Wales, we look forward to continuing this successful venture with Europe’s largest regional airline, and to promoting new and existing opportunities for our customers here in South Wales.”