By staff reporter

The Welsh Government announced today that it has entered into an ‘exclusive due diligence agreement’ with TBI, the owners of Cardiff Airport.

The airport, the announcement says, will be taken into public ownership as long as ‘financial, legal and value for money considerations’ prove satisfactory.

“Over the past 12 months, I have repeatedly emphasised the importance to Wales of a dynamic international gateway airport in Cardiff,” said Carwyn Jones, First Minister.

“During the course of the year we have developed a very constructive and positive relationship with TBI. Together we have been discussing how best to develop the airport to position it for the challenges ahead.

“I can today announce that the Welsh Government has agreed with TBI to progress towards the purchase of Cardiff Airport. Such an arrangement would enable us to develop a more coherent approach to our national infrastructure planning, and integrate the airport into our wider economic development strategy.”

The Business Minister Edwina Hart said: “The message from business leaders and tourism operators across Wales is clear; strong, international transport links are vital to our prosperity, and key to future economic growth.

“Subject to satisfactory due diligence, our investment in Cardiff Airport has the potential to create many exciting possibilities for the Welsh economy – boosting opportunities for international trade, and helping to increase visitor numbers to Wales.”

Cardiff Airport was originally a wartime aerodrome and training base for RAF Spitfire pilots. The commercial potential of the runway was recognised in the early 1950′s with Aer Lingus starting a service to Dublin in 1952.

A new terminal building followed, along with flights to France, Belfast and Cork. An escalation in holiday charter business resulted in passenger throughput exceeding 100,000 in 1962.

In 1965, control of the airport was transferred from the Ministry of Defence to Glamorgan County Council. With the first transatlantic flight in 1971, further investment led to the development of the current terminal building and control tower.

Growth in the popularity of charter traffic to the Mediterranean saw passenger levels soar to 250,000 in the early 1980s.  New transatlantic links were also established with Canada and Florida.

A runway extension enabled the airport to handle 747 jumbo jets and was instrumental in attracting the British Airways maintenance facility – one of the largest in the world.

In April 1995, due to planned local government re-organisation in Wales, the airport was privatised, with shares being sold to Welsh property and development firm, TBI Plc.

In 2006 Cardiff Airport invested £7 million in developments to accommodate passenger growth, including new air traffic control facilities, six additional stands for Boeing 737 aircraft, new terminal facilities and an additional 700 car parking spaces.

Passenger traffic at Cardiff Airport reached a record 2.1 million in 2007, but numbers have dropped since, prompting calls for more investment.

The airport is part of the TBI network, which owns, operates or provides services at 13 airports in five countries. TBI is owned by abertis, (90%) a European leader in infrastructure management, present in 17 countries and three continents, and AENA (10%) the Spanish airports operator.