A couple of months ago, you may remember I attended the opening of Cardiff Airport‘s new bar and restaurant, The Beer House and had a look around the new Departures Lounge (read my earlier post here).
I’ve never flown from Cardiff Airport before because it tends to be more expensive than other airports, it only flies to a limited number of destinations, and the airport has historically been quite difficult to reach by public transport. However, I was impressed by Cardiff Airport during my visit and it was great to hear that the airport is working to reduce ticket costs, with passenger numbers up 27% in June versus the same month last year.
With this in mind, I checked out flight costs from Cardiff Airport for a last-minute getaway to Portugal last month. Lo and behold, it was cheaper to fly to Faro Airport from Cardiff Airport than it was to fly from Bristol, so I booked a return flight ticket at a cost of £155 with low-cost airline, Flybe (it’s always worth checking the cost of two one-way tickets too, as it sometimes works out cheaper this way). Having recently celebrated the one year anniversary of its two aircraft base at Cardiff Airport, Flybe has increased its summer flights to Faro to 4 times a week.
Getting to the airport
On the morning of my flight, I got a lift to Cardiff Airport from my house, as I only live around a 30-minute drive away from the airport. If you don’t drive and aren’t able to get a lift, I recommend If you’re not local to Cardiff and you’re due to depart on an early morning flight or arrive into Cardiff on a late night flight, consider booking a hotel near Cardiff Airport. I arrived at the airport at around 8am, leaving plenty of time to relax in the Departure Lounge and polish off some breakfast before I was due to board the flight at 9.30am, in time for a 10am departure.
I checked in online and printed off my boarding pass, so I didn’t need to check in at the airport. I didn’t have any hold luggage to drop off either, so I just took the stairs straight up to the Departures on the first floor. If you’re feeling peckish before you go through security, you’ll find Caffi Cwtch right at the top of these stairs serving light meals, snacks and hot and cold drinks.
Going through security
Going through security at Cardiff Airport is an absolute breeze, especially in comparison to the experiences I’ve had at big airports like London Gatwick and Heathrow. As the airport is so small (with just one terminal) there are fewer passengers going through security at one time than there would be at a larger airport, so the queuing times are greatly reduced. I honestly don’t think the process of queuing up, having my bag scanned and walking through the body scanner took more than ten minutes, if that.
Shopping in the Departure Lounge
Once through security, you are greeted by the Duty Free shop. I was pleased to see that it sold a variety of Welsh food produce and merchandise, including a collection of Welsh football and rugby team kits including Cardiff City, Swansea City, Cardiff Blues, Ospreys and last but certainly not least, the Welsh rugby team. However, I wasn’t as impressed by the prices of some of the items for sale. £20 for sun cream? I’d rather burn to a crisp.
This leads me to one of Cardiff Airport’s downfalls; it doesn’t have a Boots or a Superdrug – the one kind of shop I am most likely to visit before I get on a flight. As I had chosen to fly out without hold luggage, I couldn’t carry any liquids over 100ml and I hadn’t been able to fit all my essential liquids into one clear bag, so I still needed to buy sun cream, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. In the end, I bought them when I arrived in Lagos, but it was inconvenient and would’ve been even more so if I’d been on a late night flight.
So, which kinds of shops does Cardiff Airport’s Departure Lounge have? Well, not many. There’s a bureaux de exchange, and a WHSmith. That’s it.
Opposite WHSmith, you’ll find a games area featuring arcade machines and air hockey tables.
Places to eat and drink
With a focus on Welsh produce, The Beer House serves a range of main courses and lighter meals and boasts a bar stocking beers from Newport-based, Tiny Rebel Brewing Co (more about The Beer House in my previous post on Cardiff Airport).
I hadn’t had time for breakfast before leaving the house and I was feeling low on energy, so I grabbed a bacon roll and a latte (approx. £6 altogether). The breakfast sandwiches are prepared in advance and taken out of the fridge to be heated up for each customer. Needless to say, my bacon sandwich wasn’t up to much; the bread roll was a little dry, the bacon was wafer-thin and tasteless and there was hardly any butter on it. That said, the coffee was made using Lavazza coffee beans – one of my favourite brands of coffee – and it was deep, rich and intense; the perfect pick-me-up before boarding my flight.
At Cardiff Airport, boarding usually opens 45 minutes before flight departure, but we weren’t called to the gate until around 9.40am and didn’t actually end up boarding our flight until around 10.10am, because the plane had arrived late from Ireland and we had to wait for it to be cleaned and for routine security checks to take place.
We eventually departed Cardiff just after 10.15am. The take-off was very smooth and, to my delight, I had been allocated a window seat.
The customer service from Flybe’s cabin crew was of an excellent standard, with a member of staff always on hand for any queries or requests. We had the option to buy hot or cold drinks and light snacks from a refreshments trolley that was wheeled around the plane a couple of times during our journey.
Landing at Faro Airport
We arrived in Faro at around 12.50pm, just 15 minutes behind schedule. I left the airport and headed to the collection point for my hotel transfer, which I booked through HolidayTaxis.com at a reasonable cost of £23 for a return transfer.
On the way home from Portugal, my return flight from Faro to Cardiff Airport was delayed again from 8.15pm until 9.10pm, but we didn’t actually take off until around 9.45pm. When I asked about the reason for the delay at Faro Airport, none of the staff were able to give me any information. On-board the plane, however, we were informed that the flight was delayed because the first flight of the day had arrived an hour late, which put the daily schedule back by an hour. This was frustrating, but I guess it couldn’t be helped – I certainly wouldn’t have minded an extra hour on the beach, though!
My first time flying from Cardiff Airport was a very positive experience; I got a good deal on my flight, and the car journey to the airport was relatively quick and traffic-free. However, I’d love to see a Boots or Superdrug store in the Departures Lounge when I next visit the airport, so I could stock up on any essential toiletries before arriving at my destination.
Apart from the flight delays, my experience of flying with Flybe was flawless. I would’ve appreciated being informed of the reason for the delay at Faro Airport, not to mention being kept in the loop about updates to the proposed departure time, but I wouldn’t let this stop me from flying with the airline again in future if I was to find a cheap deal on a flight from Cardiff Airport.
It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon, though; now that we’re in the midst of the summer holidays, flight costs at Cardiff Airport seem to have rocketed. I was considering yet another last-minute getaway to Portugal this week, but it would’ve cost me at least £200 to fly to Faro and back from Cardiff, so I decided to give it a miss. I appreciate that flights are bound to be in more demand when the kids are off school, but the cost to fly from Cardiff to Portugal was often more than double the cost of a return flight on the same dates from Bristol or Heathrow, which I find pretty disheartening. Let’s hope this trend will pass once the summer holidays are over, as I’d very much like to be able to afford to fly from Cardiff Airport again!
Have you ever flown from Cardiff Airport? If not, which airport do you usually fly from?
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