AS Ireland West Airport Knock grapples with Ryanair’s ‘devastating announcement’ that it will cut 80 percent of its flight schedule this winter, its Chief Executive Joe Gilmore confirmed yesterday that he is in ongoing discussion with Government and the Department of Transport.
He told The Mayo News that he has made a request for the Mayo airport ‘to be represented at the Oireachtas transport committee hearing next week to discuss the crisis in the aviation industry as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic’.
He also said: “We are in the process of making an application for an expansion of the current Regional Airports Programme to provide for additional funding due to the Covid crisis to support the significant losses the airport is continuing to incur.”
In an earlier statement, an airport spokesperson had said the impact of the pandemic ‘on regional Ireland continues to have a devastating effect as Ryanair announce they will cut their flight schedule by 80 percent this winter at Ireland West Airport’.
This was made on the same day as Ryanair announced that it planned to close their bases at both Cork and Shannon Airports this winter’.
The 80 percent reduction for Knock means the company will ‘operate just seven weekly services from the airport following a total collapse in demand for air travel’ due to the impact of of restrictions caused by the pandemic.
The announcement will mean the cessation of three routes from the airport this winter to Bristol, East Midlands and Malaga with significant reductions on remaining services to London Stansted, London Luton and Liverpool, the statement confirmed.
The implications of this entail that passenger projections for 2020 will involve a reduction of 81 percent. Unsurprisingly, the airport authorities are now ‘[deeply] concerned that vital services will be lost to regional Ireland in the long term – which could be lost to the region for a very long time given the current market conditions and travel restrictions in place’. Experts now forecast that it will be 2024 before traffic will return to 2019 levels.
The airport has already restructured the business and reduced its workforce by 50 percent with the remaining staff on a three-day week.
Traffic light system for air travel
ON a more positive note the EU Commission’s recent decision to adopt a new traffic light system for travel across Europe will help Knock Airport.
Welcoming the news, Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers said: “This is a very positive development for Ireland West Airport Knock and the Irish aviation sector as it represents hope that some level of regular air travel can resume. Up to now member states have been operating a patchwork of various travel restrictions with rules changing almost daily. This has been very difficult for airlines and airports trying to book flights and plan ahead. This uncertainty has also been extremely challenging for citizens right across Ireland and the EU who have needed to travel but have been unable to.”
She explained that the system of either green, orange or red categories would ensure that ‘member states would apply the same restrictions to give consistency’.
“Green would require no restrictions whereas orange and red may require testing and or quarantine. The EU Council also agreed that if a country were to implement tighter restrictions, they would give notice before doing so, in order to enable people currently abroad to get home before new restrictions came into force,” Ms Chambers said.
She confirmed she has called on Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan to establish ‘a support package for the airport and I expect we will see this included in the national recovery plan to be published next month’.
“Longer term, however, we have to allow people to travel and airlines to fly or we won’t have an aviation sector to save, the traffic light system adopted by all 27 member states is a positive step on the road to recovery for the aviation industry,” Senator Chambers added.
Did you know?
Ireland West Airport Knock will sustain record losses of almost 25 million in 2020 with revenues to decline by over 211 million. It contributes an annual tourism spend of 2182 million annually in the north and western regions supporting 2,450 jobs.