Air Wales

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Air Wales
Air Wales Icon.JPG
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded January 1997
Commenced operations January 2000
Ceased operations April 2006
Operating bases Cardiff
Focus cities
Fleet size 5
Destinations 13
Parent company Air Wales Limited
Headquarters Cardiff International Airport, Rhoose, Wales
Key people Roy Thomas (Chairman)
Air Wales Dornier 228 arriving at Manchester Airport on a schedule from Cardiff in 2001
Air Wales ATR42 parked at Cardiff International Airport, Wales (2004).
The tailfin of an Air Wales ATR 42 aircraft displaying a Welsh Dragon (2004).

The name Air Wales (Welsh: Awyr Cymru) has been used by two airlines. The first Air Wales was an airline operating flights between Cardiff International Airport and Hawarden Airport in Flintshire commencing in 1977 and ending 18 months later. The second Air Wales was an entirely separate unrelated airline also based at Cardiff International Airport in Rhoose, Vale of Glamorgan.[1] It operated scheduled regional services within Great Britain, as well as to Ireland, Belgium and France. On 23 April 2006, Air Wales ceased all operations, citing "spiralling costs" and "aggressive competition" from larger low-cost airlines.[1]


The first airline to use the name "Air Wales" was founded in August 1977 by aircraft brokers DK Aviation and Orbit Trust. It began operations at Cardiff Airport on 6 December 1977 using a 9-seater Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain (G-BWAL) on its twice-daily scheduled route from Cardiff to Hawarden Airport, Flintshire - a destination which was billed as "Chester" (even though Hawarden is in Wales and Chester is the other side of the Welsh/English border). Clwyd County Council provided the company with a start-up grant of £10,000 on the grounds that the service would improve communications between North East Wales and Cardiff. The single fare was £16.50p. Notwithstanding the confined space of the aircraft, complimentary coffee was routinely served in-flight to passengers by the First Officer.[2] The airline added services from Cardiff to Cherbourg and Brest in France. In 1978 an Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante (G-CELT) was added to the fleet to operate a service from Cardiff to Brussels connecting into Sabena's network. However, with break-even estimated at some 15 months away, Air Wales, unable to raise sufficient working capital, ceased operations on 30 June 1979 and became part of Air Anglia and ultimately part of Air UK.[2]

The second manifestation of "Air Wales" was a much larger operation established in January 1997 with the assistance of property financier Roy Thomas and started operations in January 2000. Initially based at Pembrey Airport in west Wales and operating two Dornier 228 aircraft, Air Wales expanded to employ over 120 personnel, including 45 flight deck staff, 20 engineers and 20 cabin crew.

Operations transferred to Red Dragon House at the grounds of Swansea Airport, Fairwood Common, in October 2001.[3][4] Passenger numbers failed to reach the company's break-even levels and, after three years, Air Wales gave up all its Swansea routes. The airline decided to concentrate on routes out of Cardiff, moving operations to a new headquarters at Cardiff International Airport in October 2004.[4]

In December 2005, bmibaby and Air Wales had a fallout leaving bmibaby to cancel a partnership between the two airlines. The partnership covered the routes Belfast and Glasgow which were operated by Air Wales.[5]

During February 2006, Air Wales gave up all routes from Plymouth to focus on more popular routes and international routes.[6]

On 23 April 2006, the airline ceased all scheduled services with a loss of 80 jobs to focus on charter and cargo operations, however these operations never materialised and the aircraft were all sold to other airlines.[7]


Air Wales operated the following services (in February 2006), which had all ceased by the end of April 2006:


  • Brussels, Aberdeen, Paris CDG (on behalf of bmibaby), Belfast City, Cork, Dublin, Jersey, Newcastle, Liverpool, London City, Swansea, Plymouth.


  • Cardiff, Exeter


  • Cork


  • Cork, Dublin, London City, Amsterdam, Jersey, Cardiff

Terminated destinations[edit]

Air Wales served 20 destinations across Europe.

Partnership with bmibaby[edit]

Air Wales had a partnership with bmibaby to operate on the following routes:


An Air Wales ATR 42 departing Cardiff International Airport, Wales. (2004)

Air Wales originally operated Dornier 228 aircraft. These were replaced by a fleet of ATR-42-300 aircraft:[8]

Air Wales Fleet
Aircraft Total Routes
ATR-42-300 5 Short haul

In March 2006, Air Wales fleet average age was 13.4 years.


  1. ^ a b "BBC news:Wales:Airline to end scheduled flights". BBC News website. BBC. 23 March 2006. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Cardiff Airport at Rhoose. 70 years of aviation history by Geoff Jones". The History Press 2011,ISBN 978 0 7524 5988 2
  3. ^ "World Airlines Directory." Flight International. 16–22 March 2004. 78.
  4. ^ a b "BBC news:Wales:South West Wales:Air Wales pulls out of Swansea". BBC News website. BBC. 19 July 2004. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  5. ^ Air Wales and bmibaby fallout
  6. ^ Air Wales gives up Plymouth route
  7. ^ "Air Wales to cease operations on 23 April 2006" BBC News
  8. ^ UK CAA Aircraft Register

External links[edit]