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Government’s travel plans welcomed


Essential flights to begin as early as June 18

Michael Gallagher

The resumption of non-essential travel to and from Ireland West Airport Knock will be ‘a huge lift’ to the west of Ireland, according to the airport’s Head of Marketing and Route Development, Donal Healy.
The Charlestown man welcomed Friday’s government announcement marking July 19 as the day when the ban on non-essential travel will finally come to an end and said everyone in the airport is ‘hugely excited’.
“There’s a great team here and Friday’s announcement was very positive for everyone involved here. When the ban is lifted people will be able to once again fly out for holidays or short breaks and it’s a day we’re all looking forward to.
“The doors have remained open here throughout the pandemic, but the last commercial flight out of the airport was on January 8, and really one could say the airport hasn’t operated normally since March 29, 2020, so we were absolutely delighted to hear Friday’s announcement,” Mr Healy stated.
Ryanair will return to the airport on June 18 for essential flights to Liverpool, Luton and Stansted, while the company are advertising a full schedule of flights out of Knock from the first week of July. It remains to be seen whether those flights will be allowed, but there will be no holding back once July 19 arrives according to Healy.
“Once you can prove you’ve been vaccinated or produce a negative PCR test, there will be no restrictions to flights within the EU from July 19. There’s a full schedule for places like Milan, Cologne, Alicante, Malaga, Faro and Majorca, which will restore a lot of our capacity, but we’re taking nothing for granted. It will be a slow and safe return to business.

“It will take a fair bit of time before passenger numbers return to pre-Covid levels. However, there’s a lot of optimism out there, a sense of hope. People haven’t been spending a lot of money during the lockdown and from the hundreds of messages we receive on social media every week, people are mad to get back traveling once it’s safe to do so,” he added, before putting into perspective the loss of business experienced by the airport in the past 14 months.
“We had more the 800,000 passengers in 2019 and were aiming to have more than a million by the end of 2021. However, Covid hit and our numbers were reduced to 143,000 passengers last year, statistics last seen in 1996. That shows the scale of the impact the pandemic has had on us,” Healy stressed.
The airport recently celebrated its 35th birthday and is now gearing up for the challenges posed by a post-Covid world. However, Healy is confident good times await all involved.
“We’ve survived a number of major crises and we’re still standing, employing a lot of people and providing a service to the west of Ireland. It has been a roller-coaster over the past 35 years. On the day we opened, someone had a banner up saying ‘Horan for Pope and Mayo for Sam.’ It’s hard to imagine that neither have happened since.”