Tourists who recently visited Westport for a four-day holiday found it hard to leave – but for all the wrong reasons.
Soon after Patrick Meehan and his wife set out in the rental car to drive back to Knock airport, they found themselves needlessly lost and then severely out of pocket.
The Meehans, who travelled over from Suffolk early last month, drove to Knock airport in the early hours of the morning, in plenty of time to catch a flight back to the UK. However, they could not find their turn. According to Mr Meehan, signs for the airport were ‘non-existent’ along the N5 route.
“We came to a sign for ‘Knock’ and wasted a lot of time driving towards it before we realised the airport was in a completely different direction,” Mr Meehan told The Mayo News. The sign the couple had followed was for Knock village.
“The first Knock airport sign appeared just a couple of miles from the airport itself,” added an exasperated Mr Meehan, who suggests that the €10 Airport Development Fee that the airport takes from departing passengers should be invested in improving signage throughout the region. “Maybe they want it to remain invisible?” he quipped.
When The Mayo News posed the issue of road signage to Joe Gilmore, Managing Director of Knock Airport, Mr Gilmore said, “We are pleased with the recent upgrade of approach signage to the airport and are in regular discussion with Mayo County Council and the NRA in regard to this matter.”
Mayo Fine Gael TD, John O’Mahony recently called for airport symbols for Ireland West Airport Knock to be placed on all major signposts in Mayo towns.
“I am aware that the symbol is included on signposts in towns close to the airport, but in my opinion it should be on all major signs in the county,” he said. “There is nothing worse for tourists than to be uncertain about finding their way to an airport. It can be stressful enough for people without the added issue of not being sure about the direction they have to travel in,” said O’Mahony.
Nowhere to fill-up
The Meehans’ trip to the airport was also much more expensive than they had planned. The couple could not fill the fuel tank of their rented car because there is no 24-hour filling station in the area. They were therefore forced to pay a fuel surcharge when they handed the car back.
“We, like many other tourists, had to return our hire car with a full tank of petrol to avoid a massively overpriced fuel surcharge by the rental company, but we were not able to do this. Why not? Because on the drive from Westport to the airport at 5.30 in the morning there wasn’t a single petrol station open along the entire route.”
Commenting on the filling station issue Mr Gilmore said: “We have had discussions with a number of parties concerning a filling station. However, in the current economic climate, it is difficult to justify from a commercial perspective.”
Mr Meehan, who questioned whether the Airport Development Committee could be ‘bothered’ to get a 24-hour filling station on the site or nearby, said he would suggest that an unmanned filling station be established in the future.
“Could the airport development people learn a lesson from Westport, which has an unmanned Gas Oil and Diesel station in the town? Or perhaps the Airport Development Committee have a sweetheart deal with car hire companies to prevent such a convenience for visitors being put in place?”
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