Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton, has today announced that she has asked her department to commence the mid-term review of the Regional Airports Programme.
The primary aim of the Regional Airports Programme 2021-2025 is to provide funding to Ireland’s smallest airports i.e., those that provide connectivity and handle fewer than 1 million annual passengers. Funding is targeted at ensuring that the airports can maintain compliance in the areas of safety and security. Funding also supports projects with a sustainability focus. Also supported under the Programme are Public Service Obligation (PSO) air services between Donegal and Dublin.
Minister Naughton said: “Government recognises the important role that our regional airports play in supporting regional connectivity and as access points for both tourism and business. The mid-term review will consider how the Programme is currently delivering on its objectives, primarily in the context of supporting balanced regional development. It will also explore how international connectivity and services, to and from the regions can be maintained and enhanced.”
In preparation for the opening of a Public Consultation to inform this mid-term review, Minister Naughton would welcome views from interested parties on the range of issues that might be addressed in an Issues Paper in relation to, for example, how we can boost traffic to and utilise better our regional airports. Such issues can then be considered for inclusion in the Issues Paper, which will be published as part of the Public Consultation process.
Government has maintained a strong commitment to the aviation sector, both throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and now, as recovery across the sector and our airports thankfully continues. This support included an unprecedented €116 million under an EU State aid approved COVID-19 Supplementary Support Scheme for Irish airports. This funding has compensated our small regional airports at Donegal, Ireland West and Kerry for the damage caused to them by Covid as well as having provided our State airports at Dublin, Shannon and Cork with the flexibility to roll out route incentives/charge rebates, in consultation with airlines.
Welcoming the recovery and growth of connectivity, Minister Naughton said “I am delighted to see the positive impacts of Government support witnessed across all of our airports and in particular our regional airports. Shannon Airport’s Summer 2022 schedule offered 27 destinations to the UK, Europe and the US and the winter 2022 schedule offers 23 destinations with daily flights to the US. A new twice-weekly service to Paris Orly began operating during September and will continue for Winter 2022/23. Ryanair also commenced two new routes to Béziers and Newcastle.
2022 saw an extremely busy summer period for Cork Airport also, leading into their biggest ever winter schedule, which features over 1.1 million seats across 27 routes, served by 5 airlines. Included are two new routes with twice-weekly services to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport and Newcastle, alongside several summer routes which have been extended into the winter including twice-weekly services to Valencia, Milan, Venice and Faro. All 7 routes, which operated from Kerry Airport pre COVID, have returned. So too has the pre-pandemic route network of air services from Ireland West Airport Knock, with the airport offering a winter schedule of 84 weekly flights to and from a host of cities in the UK and Europe.
With regard to connectivity to the north west region, although Donegal Airport has yet to restore air services to Glasgow, which were lost as a result of the pandemic, an extensive procurement process by my Department, saw a new Public Service Obligation air services contract being awarded this year, providing services between Donegal and Dublin. These twice daily two-way air services, facilitating same day return trips from Donegal, and further onward international connectivity from Dublin airport, marks Government’s commitment to ensuring continued connectivity to this region for the next 3 years.”
Initial views are welcomed by 31st December 2022, by emailing the Department of Transport.