Mr Jones said the Assembly Government will be re-tendering for the service to run from May 2010 and it will be expanded to provide at least 29 passenger seats on each flight.
“Demand for this service has far exceeded our expectations and clearly demonstrates that it provides a valuable new way of linking up Wales,” he said.
“The ability to conduct business in one day is improving the efficiency of the Welsh economy. Equally pleasing is the way it has been adopted for social and cultural reasons allowing people to more easily attend national events and visit friends and family.
“I’m delighted to announce that we will continue to support this valuable service and it will have an increased capacity which will not only allow more people to travel but also provide greater flexibility for bookings.”
In the first two years of operation over 28,900 passengers used the service. This exceeded expectations so that, with an 18 seat aircraft, load factors have been consistently high.
The next contract will have a maximum ticket price of around £56, including the Air Passenger Duty which is applicable to a larger capacity aircraft. The maximum ticket price will apply to 75% of the minimum seating capacity, allowing the operator some flexibility in setting fares for the remaining seats.
The service will operate to a similar timetable as at present, with two flights a day in each direction from Monday to Friday.
The Isle of Anglesey County Council is responsible for operating the Maes Awyr Môn terminal building.
Council Leader, Councillor Clive McGregor, welcomed the Deputy First Minister’s announcement.
“Maes Awyr Môn is a real success story and fine example of partnership working between the Assembly Government , RAF Valley and County Council.
“The service has brought north and south Wales closer, enhancing both business and social links. It’s been fantastic to see so many people using the service during a relatively short space of time and I’m delighted to hear that not only has the service been extended for another four years, but a larger aircraft will be used on the route, providing additional capacity for further growth.”
Steve Hodgetts, Cardiff Airport’s business development and commercial director said:
"We’re pleased to hear the flights will be continued as it’s a great link between the north and south of the country, and has proved immensely popular with travellers over the first few years of operation.
We’re also glad to see the Welsh Assembly Government recognizing the demand from passengers and responding by highlighting the need for a larger sized aircraft, as this will give even more travellers the ability to make the journey by air over the coming years.”
A study commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government to evaluate the first year of the service shows that flights offer a significant time saving for travelling between north and south.
Some key findings from the study are:
- Many flights are fully booked, and passenger numbers have exceeded expectations with a load factor of 88% in May 2008.
- Around one-third of the passengers surveyed had experienced difficulties in booking seats due to the lack of capacity.
- Nearly 1,900 new trips (or 12.2% of passengers) between north and south Wales were created as a result of the air service.
- Total journey times between North and South Wales are shorter.
- Social inclusion and cohesiveness are enhanced and the quality of life for passengers improved.
The independent study was carried out jointly by Halcrow Group Ltd and the Wales Transport Research Centre. It was based on a series of interviews with air and rail passengers as well as car drivers.
19 October 2009