Key funding announcement ensures future viability of regional airports
KNOCK Airport expects to hear confirmation on Friday next of the Ryanair flight schedule, due to begin on March 28, The Mayo News can confirm. However, a spokesman for the airport said the schedule would be ‘subject to change because of the unfolding situation due to the pandemic’.
Meanwhile, Ireland West Airport Knock’s chairman has welcomed last week’s publication by Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton of the new Regional Airports Programme 2021-2025.
The programme is underpinned by Project Ireland 2040 and provides a framework for supporting airports that deliver international connectivity to their regions. Its focus is to support and maintain regulatory compliance in the areas of safety and security in the country’s regional airports.
The announcement means that Donegal, Kerry and Ireland West airports will be eligible to apply for funding tranche, which has a budget of €21.3 million for 2021.
Announcing the programme, Minister Naughton said: “The aviation industry and in particular airports have been acutely impacted by Covid-19. Government has recognised this and is committed to supporting airports while passenger numbers remain low and activity is suppressed. This new programme, which will greatly assist in maintaining connectivity in our regional airports, has a budget of €21.3 million in 2021.
“I am also pleased to say that, for the first time, the programme will take account of climate objectives and support the ‘greening’ of Irish airports. Funding will be available to encourage airports to reduce emissions and to build resilience against the likely impacts of climate change. I would like all our airports to achieve carbon neutrality over the next five years as part of our national efforts to combat climate change.
”She confirmed that her department also continued to engage with the European Commission to advance further schemes, in line with the package of supports for Irish Aviation that was announced by Government in November 2020.
“A budget of €26 million has been allocated to these new schemes, which will help all airports that deliver connectivity – Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Knock, Kerry and Donegal – to address some of the liquidity issues and damage caused to date from Covid-19,” Minister Naughton continued.
Responding to the announcement, Ireland West Airport chairman, Arthur French, said: “The extension of the Regional Airports Programme is positive news for the airport and regional Ireland as the supports provided, as part of the programme, are critical for the ongoing sustainability of the airport.
“We also welcome the news that the Department of Transport is engaging with the European Commission to advance further schemes, in line with the package of supports for Irish Aviation that was announced by Government in November 2020 … We will continue to work with the department to support the airport in the critical position it continues to find itself in as we prepare for another very challenging year for the aviation sector in 2021.”
Welcoming the news also, Senator Lisa Chambers, Fianna Fáil, said: “Ireland West Airport Knock is vital to our region and everything must be done to ensure its viability and survival, I have long advocated for the importance of protecting our airport, and I am delighted to see the Government is taking the matter seriously.”
Passenger numbers at Ireland West Airport declined to 143,000 during 2020, an 82 percent drop compared to 2019’s record number of 807,000 passengers. The airport experienced losses of close to €4 million last year due to the impact of the pandemic.