Today’s news that the Anglesey – Cardiff air link could improve should not to be taken as a negative view of what is a highly important and valuable asset to transport links in Wales.
The National Assembly for Wales’ Public Accounts Committee, said: “Passenger numbers for the air service are still disappointing so we were pleased that the Welsh Government responded positively to our interim report in requiring extra marketing for the service in the new contract.”
LinksAir currently operate the service on a contract leading to 2018 using Jetstream 31 type aircraft. Evidence by frequent users suggest the flight is comfortable, friendly and quick, completing a single way journey in just over 45 minutes. Passenger capacity is 19 with 2 crew.
Welsh Government recontracted the service out to Links Air in 2014 for a further four years, allowing for a maximum subsidy of £3.94m. Under the new contract it was set out that Links Air should set aside between £63,000 and £69,000 to market the air service.
Whatever your view on the subsidy for providing this service, it remains as a step in the right direction for linking North West Wales with Cardiff and South Wales. Services only build if they already exist, and while passenger numbers might still not be as high as expected, the service is there to be improved and developed to become viable.
So how can this service ensure growth? Improved marketing was one of the suggestions found in the Committee’s enquiries and I must agree with them, that more could be done to publicise and advertise the service. Here are a few suggestions:
- Expand services to operate at weekends. Currently services only operate Monday – Friday.
- Market the service to students that study in Cardiff but wish to journey to the North for visiting family.
- Source businesses that work regularly between the North and South, and target their staff as regular potential users for the service.
- Create an identity and brand through a dedicated social media presence. FlyBe and Ryanair currently do this very well through engaging #RyanAirFotoFriday hashtags and customer deals and prizes.
- Advertise locally. Cardiff city centre is currently going through a period of exciting and rapid growth and the service should capitalise on this prime space for advertising, especially as BBC Wales’ headquarters will be based here.
- TrawsCymru bus advertising: Currently there are a fleet of buses operating a service linking Cardiff Airport and Cardiff City Centre that are owned by the Welsh Government. Why not adapt an advertising campaign on the rear of these vehicles for a specific time period?
- Cardiff hosts many international sporting events with many followers in North Wales. Advertising a package to fly to the capital and back would most definitely increase passenger numbers during these events.
These are only very few examples of what could be done to improve the service but it must be done sooner rather than later. This service is vital for the economic and social growth of North West Wales and if this service is lost, it will be a hard sell to reinstate it.
Let’s make sure it is retained.