Cardiff Airport

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Cardiff International Airport
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County Glamorgan
Owner Welsh Government
Operator Cardiff Airport Ltd.
Location ST069674
51°23’55"N, 3°20’22"W
Runway 7,723 feet (Asphalt)

Cardiff Airport (IATA: CWL, ICAO: EGFF) lies to the south of Cardiff and Rhoose in the south of Glamorgan. It is the busiest airport in Wales.

The airport is now state-owned: it has been has been under the ownership of the devolved Welsh Government since March 2013, operating at an arm's length as a commercial business. Passenger numbers were 1.3 million in 2016.


On 27 March 2013, the Welsh Government announced it had purchased Cardiff International Airport Ltd from TBI Ltd as a going concern for £52,000,000.

Since 2013 Cardiff Airport has undergone a transformation with improvements made to the terminal, surrounding infrastructure, customer service standards and also the introduction of new routes. In June 2015 Europe's largest regional airline Flybe opened a two aircraft base at Cardiff (three from March 2018). The airline now operates a busy flight network of 16 direct routes across the UK & Europe to destinations including Faro, Jersey, Dublin, Glasgow, Berlin, Venice, Munich, Verona, Rome, Edinburgh and Paris CDG.


British Airways Maintenance Centre, Cardiff Airport
Concorde outside British Airways Maintenance Cardiff

The history of the Airport extends back to the early 1940s, when the Air Ministry requisitioned land in the rural Vale of Glamorgan to set up a wartime satellite aerodrome and training base, named RAF Rhoose, for Royal Air Force Spitfire pilots. Construction work commenced in 1941, and the airfield officially began life on 7 April 1942 when it was taken over by No 53 Operational Training Unit. After the War the airfield fell into disuse and was abandoned.

In 1951 David Rees-Williams (later Lord Ogmore) was appointed, briefly, Minister of Aviation and identified what he called a "great need for a commercial airport of international standards" in South Wales. (Though MP for Croydon South, Rees-Williams had been born in locally, in Bridgend.) After the Ministry had looked various possible sites, the Consultative Committee then proposed the abandoned Royal Air Force airfield at Rhoose. The Ministry of Aviation then began to remove the tumbled buildings and stacks of bombs to convert the field into a civilian airport. In October 1952 the new Rhoose Airport was opened by Rees-Williams's successor as Minister of Aviation Alan Lennox-Boyd.[1]

Also in 1952 Aer Lingus started a service to Dublin. Civilian flights from the old Cardiff Municipal Airport at Pengam Moors were transferred to Rhoose on 1 April 1954. A new terminal building followed, along with flights to France, Belfast and Cork. An escalation in holiday charter business resulted in passenger throughout exceeding 100,000 in 1962.

On 1 April 1965 the Ministry of Aviation handed the airport over to Glamorgan County Council and it was renamed Glamorgan (Rhoose) Airport.[2] The council started a five-year plan to develop the Airport including a new control tower, terminal building and a runway extension.[2]

In the 1970s, the supersonic airliner Concorde made a few flights into the airport on special occasions. These were limited by the length of the runway, meaning it could only land lightly loaded, and only take off without passengers and with a minimal fuel load.

In the 1980s, the name of the airport was changed to 'Cardiff-Wales Airport' and in 1986 the runway was further extended by 750 feet, attracting more business to the airport in the form of new-generation jet aircraft. Development of transatlantic links were made with charter flights to Florida, in addition to the previously-established links with Canada. The runway extension, enabling the airport to handle 747 jumbo jets, was instrumental in attracting the British Airways Maintenance facility to the airport. The maintenance hangar is one of the largest in the world at 820 feet by 574 feet, providing heavy airframe and engineering maintenance for the British Airways fleet and third-party carriers.

In April 1995, due to planned Local Government re-organisation, the airport company was privatised.

In 1996, Ryanair was one of the first airports it chose for its ‘no frills’ services using second-hand Boeing 737-200s on a short hop from Dublin. However, by 2006 Ryanair withdrew from the Airport, due to a very public falling out with the airport over charges. It has since returned and now operates flights to the Canaries.


In December 1995, Heli-air Wales began training helicopter pilots from the airport's southside, and are widely accredited with pioneering Helicopter Training in Wales. Heli-air Wales moved operations to Swansea Airport in 1999, and are still trading there to this day.

The airport is not only the main maintenance base for British Airways but also home to a variety of aerospace-oriented firms and colleges, and therefore a major contributor to the economic development of the region.

The airport was used by 2.1 million passengers in 2008, falling to around 1.3 million passengers in 2016, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

The airport was the main base for four local airlines; Cambrian Airways from 1935 to 1976, Airways International Cymru until the airline ceased operations in 1988, Inter European Airways until 1993 and Air Wales until the airline ceased scheduled operations in March 2006.

In 2012, the Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling opened a new route to Barcelona, and Monarch opened a route to Orlando, Florida; the first time in four years the airport had a direct charter connection to the United States. Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways now have regular seasonal flights to Florida and the Caribbean.

General aviation

The airport was home for many years to a number of flying clubs and small general aviation operators. These included the Cambrian and Pegasus Flying Clubs and later (from the mid-1980s) the Cardiff Wales Flying Club. In 2010, a new flying school was set up by the company Aeros. They (as of 2012) have a fleet including Cessna 152s and Piper Warriors; they are based in the White Building on the south side of the airfield. There is a small cafe in the White Building that offers facilities for private aircraft owners.

Signature Flight Support are present on the south side of the airfield serving executive aircraft that visit the airport. Signature Flight Support uses the former Cambrian Airways HQ as their office. Executive aircraft park on either the Norman Parking Area, Golf Taxiway or the newly commissioned Cambrian Parking Area which has been named in honour of the former airline of the same name.

Dragonfly Executive Air Charter operate three Beechcraft King Air 200-series aircraft. The company office is based on the south side of the airfield.

Ground transport

Rhoose Cardiff International Airport railway station
Cardiff Airport Express at Cardiff Central Bus Station

The nearest railway station is Rhoose Cardiff International Airport railway station on the Vale of Glamorgan Line. The station is linked by buses to the departures terminal. On the South Wales Main Line, an hourly service is provided from Cardiff Central station and Bridgend.

A bus service, the "Cardiff Airport Express" runs from Cardiff Airport to Cardiff city centre.

The airport is ten miles from the M4 junction 33, via the A4232.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Cardiff Airport)


  1. Hansard Lords Debates 1957
  2. 2.0 2.1 'Council Take Over An Airport': The Times, Friday, 2 April 1965 (issue 56286)