LONDON – The controversy in Cardiff continues as the Welsh Government declines to disclose an official figure on incentives to do with Qatar Airways’ operations out of the airport.
Since the world has opened up again, Qatar Airways hasn’t returned to the Welsh capital, with the government stating the following about a return of the service via a Freedom of Information response:
“The route is currently suspended due to the impact of COVID-19. The reinstatement of the air link between Doha and Cardiff is a commercial matter for Qatar Airways.”
“We remain keen to support the reinstatement of the Doha route and we would very much welcome the resumption of the service from Cardiff as soon as is reasonably and commercially viable for the operator, however, it is not for the Welsh Government or Welsh Ministers to presume when this would be.”
The previous controversy featured incentives handed to Wizz Air to operate out of the airport, with the Welsh Government saying the following at the time:
“The Welsh Government does hold some information relating to your request which includes documents and emails relating to the discussion between both parties prior to their agreement to operate out of Cardiff Airport.”
“I have concluded that the information captured by the request is exempt from disclosure under Section 43(commercial interests) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Full reasoning for applying this exemption is given in Annex A to this letter.”
Annex A effectively states that answering the question fully “would be likely to put the company’s own business at risk and therefore prejudice its ability to engage in future commercial activities.”
It continues: “It is a matter that will damage the relationship between the airport and airline if made public and will also put the airport at a commercial disadvantage with regards to attracting and negotiating with other customers and competitors.”
Drip-Fed Some Form of Information…
Regarding the second question in the FOI about how much money the Welsh Government has provided Qatar Airways since the route first opened, this was marked as exempt from disclosure.
However, the response did include a link to some information about the original contract, which has been valued at around £2m.
As per the agreement, each side would invest £1m each through “jointly-agreed marketing activities” including the following aspects:
1. Targeting customers on Qatar Airways’ flights and using the airline’s extensive global consumer database;
2. A global co-campaign delivered between the Welsh Government and Qatar Airways, taking full advantage of the airline’s suite of marketing channels and extensive international audience and reach; and
3. Country-specific co-campaign plans tailored to the Australasia, India, and North Asia markets covering a mix of consumer media, use of Qatar Airways’ owned assets, in-market travel trade activity and events, and other tactical activity.
The duration of the contract will be 2 years with an option to extend for up to a further 2 years, subject to a maximum of 4 years in total.
Qatar’s return is probably down to the fact that the contract would have expired now, having been signed in 2017, but in all, this does give some insight into how much taxpayer’s money was used for this route.