Airline grounds route to Wales only two months after taking off in Norwich

The Cardiff-Norwich route will close at the end of the month because it did not make profit fast eno

The Cardiff-Norwich route will close at the end of the month because it did not make profit fast enough. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A new air link between Norwich to Cardiff is to be grounded by airline chiefs barely two months after take-off.

Operator Links Air said it was ending flights between the two cities at the end of this month. But one passenger, due to fly tomorrow, said his flight had already been cancelled.

Bosses at Norwich International Airport said they were disappointed at the closure of the route, which only began operating on April 20.

Roger Hage, commercial manager at Links Air, said because the airline was publicly subsidised for its Anglesey-Cardiff route, under law it had to ensure all other routes were profitable.

'We were treading the fine wire to make this work and it was worth a try,' said Mr Hage. 'But we had to break even in the next four weeks and we havent.'

The airline has transported about 700 customers so far and would have needed about 1000 to break even.

Richard Pace, the airport's operations director and general manager, said: 'We are disappointed that the route is ceasing to run. We know there is a need for an east-wesk link among Norwich passengers.'

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John Shaw, from Drayton, had booked flights to Cardiff for tomorrow, but discovered 'out of the blue' that the route had been cancelled just days before.

'We were due to fly back [to Norwich] the following Friday, but we found out on Tuesday that it had just been cancelled,' said the 60-year-old.

'It's sad that another airline is not continuing, but to be honest, I was surprised they introduced that one to begin with.'

Mr Shaw will now have to drive for more than six hours to the Welsh coast, and said he had been fully refunded and apologised to by the company.

The news comes amid a fresh call from airlines ahead of next month's budget to look again at the controversial airport passenger duty charges on domestic and international flights.

The duty is an extra cost added by government to the flight ticket which goes directly back to the Treasury, initially introduced in the early 2000s to counter the environmental impact of flying.

Airport chief executive Andrew Bell welcomed the call from the British Air Transport Association for a rethink.

'Domestic aviation has really been clobbered as it is being taxed twice. It's a barrier that is making a difficult business case impossible to justify,' he said. 'It is the number-one point of lobbying between airports and government. We would like government to look at least at not taxing twice for return flights, and ideally not at all.'

n Regional airline Flybe, which operates services in and out of Norwich, has insisted its turnaround is on track despite posting full-year losses after it cut capacity and paid high costs to maintain unwanted planes.

The Exeter-based carrier, which flies 66 planes, posted a pre-tax loss of £35.6m in the year to the end of March, compared with an £8.1m profit 12 months previously.

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