The launch of Qatar Airways flights from Cardiff a year ago has had “far-reaching consequences” and been “transformational” for the once-struggling airport, its chairman has said.

In 2012, Cardiff Airport was facing a slump in traveller numbers and the loss of several carriers. Annual passenger figures had fallen from a peak of two million in 2007 to around one million, a sixth of what nearby Bristol Airport was achieving.

The following year the Welsh government bought the airport from a private company for £52 million, with First Minister Carwyn Jones saying it would be managed “at arm’s length” and “on a commercial basis.”

It has since increased its number of low-cost leisure routes, as well as developing year-round business services, sending passenger numbers up to 1.58 million in 2018. In 2018 it posted its first positive annual financial result in eight years (£7,000, up on a £800,000 loss the previous year).

And following two years of negotiations, in May last year it welcomed Qatar Airways, providing the first regular, direct link between Wales and the Gulf region.

Five flights a week are currently running between Cardiff and Doha, which will rise to daily from May 31 for the summer season, all operated by a B787 Dreamliner.

The Welsh government is also paying Qatar Airways £1 million over a two year period to market Wales as a destination.

Shortly after the route launch, Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker admitted he was “disappointed” with the passenger numbers. However these began to pick up later in the year:

Qatar Airways’ improving passenger numbers at Cardiff

This week, senior airport executives praised the impact of the new route.

“The introduction of a regular service between Cardiff and Doha has opened up a world of connectivity for customers across Wales and the South West of England,” said Deb Barber, CEO of Cardiff Airport.

“Direct flights to Qatar Airways’ hub in Doha creates onward connections to destinations across Australia, New Zealand, Asia and many more, all without the hassle of having to drive down the M4 to fly from London airports.

“This service has also re-affirmed Cardiff Airport as a key gateway to the United Kingdom, ideal for visitors, international students, business travellers and expats alike.”

Cardiff Airport Chairman Roger Lewis commented: “The inaugural flight in May 2018 was a pivotal moment for Cardiff Airport, for Wales and the South West of England.

“The far-reaching consequences of this service for our customers and businesses have proven to be transformational so far.”

Minister for Economy and Transport Ken Skates added that “the launch of a scheduled daily long-haul Qatar Airways service puts Wales more firmly on the world stage, in terms of attracting both business trade and travellers.”

Qatar recently revamped its economy dining offering, with redesigned menu cards, a service timeline and new snack options.

It has also announced it will increase its weekly flights out of Edinburgh.