Cardiff Airport bosses will be in front of Senedd members on Wednesday morning, June 29.
Spencer Birns, Chief Executive Officer; Wayne Harvey, Chairman; David Walters, Chief Financial Officer will all appear in front of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee. Along with Tracey Burke, director general of climate change and rural affairs at Welsh Government, Jonathan Moody, head of aviation, ports and logistics and Stephen Rowan, deputy director national and international connectivity.
The airport, which has been given millions of pounds in Welsh Government funding since it was bought by the government in 2013 has seen a huge decline in passengers since the pandemic.
In 2020, as aviation sector was one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic due to lockdown and restrictions, Cardiff Airport’s interim boss revealed that business was down 93% on the same time in 2019.
Passenger numbers at UK airports last year were 78% below pre-pandemic levels, and numbers at Cardiff Airport fell by 93%, new figures have shown. Wales’ biggest airport was just the 25th largest in the UK, according to Civil Aviation Agency data for 2021.
In total, Cardiff served just 123,000 passengers last year. That compares to 2.08m for Bristol, 6.2m for Gatwick and 19.3m for Heathrow. The Welsh-Government-owned airport was also smaller than Exeter, Norwich and Bournemouth – and was less than half the size of Southampton. Cardiff served just 0.2% of UK air travellers. You can read about that here.
Follow live updates from the committee below:
Bosses took voluntary paycut
Bosses took a pandemic pay cut, which has recently been reinstated, the committee is told.
Committee chair Mark Isherwood says reporting earnings were £5m lower in 2020-21 than the previous year. “Why is this the case given your loss before tax adn exceptional items fell by only £2.2m and depreciation charges appear to have been higher for the year?”
Mr Walters says 2020 was “more or less” break even but that wasn’t the case the following year. “After that there were entries for the loan write off and re-evaluation in 2021 accounts”.
What about the future?
A solar farm has received planning approval and going forward they expect to provide the majority of their own electricity in the future.
He says they believe they have fared “better” than other UK airports due to better training for their staff.
What level would you have been operating at?
Pre-pandemic they were expecting 1.6m passengers, and to break even financially. From March 2020, they were “constantly renewing the forecasts because the situation was changing”.
The committee was written to earlier this year, and was told in January they had reduced administrative expenses by £9.5m in 2021. Asked how they made those, some were saved through things like switching off lights in the terminal, staff left, furlough contributions helped too. But in the main those savings were made from lower activity.
There have been long-term savings with less executive positions. “We’re constantly looking at our costs,” says David Walters, the chief financial officer.
Airport was ‘decimated’
The evidence session has started. Wayne Harvey says the ability to fly through 2021 was “decimated” and the impact on Cardiff Airport specifically was “immense”. He says while the airport was open and operational in the earliest days of the pandemic it was “difficult” and they were not able to generate “much revenue”.
British Aerospace paid some additional revenue to park planes there. “Our income stream was almost non-existent”.
“Our performance, in the circumstances, was I believe very good,” he said. He said they “battened down the hatches” and restricted expenditure wherever possible. He said at the end of the 2021 accounting year, their projections were that flying would resume, but when Omicron resumed furlough had stopped so for that period was “equally challenging”.
“We had an operational airport but no passengers until the spring of this year”.