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Hopes soar as flights return

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'SENSE OF POSITIVITY' Passengers can now travel from Ireland West Airport for essential journeys.

Resumption of passenger flights at Ireland West Airport a welcome sign of brighter days

Michael Gallagher

Passenger flights have resumed at Ireland West Airport Knock, and bookings for foreign holidays are already flying in. On Friday last, the first commercial flights in 160 days departed for Luton, Stansted and Liverpool, and it’s expected the amount of routes will mushroom in the next few weeks. Donal Healy, Head of Marketing and Route Development at the airport, said the resumption of business has had a hugely positive impact on all airport staff. Thoughts are now turning towards July 19, when the essential-travel-only restrictions will be lifted.
“At the moment passengers can only travel if their trip is essential, but that limit will soon be gone and something approaching normal service will begin to resume. There’s a great sense of positivity here, and we’re delighted to see flights coming and going again,” he told The Mayo News.

‘Can’t wait’
The current ‘essential travel only’ restrictions will be in place for another few weeks, but Healy says plans for fully-booked flights are at an advanced stage.
“At the moment we have probably 50 percent occupancy on the flights, which shows how badly people needed the connectivity and once the restrictions are lifted the change will be very noticeable. From July 19, people will be free to fly to anywhere in the EU once they’ve had their two jabs or can produce a negative PCR test.
“Nothing has been confirmed yet regarding travel to the UK, but we expect the rules to be similar to EU travel. Of course, all of this is dependent on there being no more Covid surges, lockdowns or variants.
“We’re already scheduled to have flights departing for Malaga, Faro, Alicante, Milan, Cologne and many other destinations. We can’t wait to see people coming and going through the airport again for their sun holidays and weekend breaks. We’ve all been locked down for a long time and once restrictions lift we expect to be very busy.

Critical driver
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MEP for the region, Chris MacManus has also welcomed the resumption of commercial flights from Knock for the first time in almost six months. The Midlands Northwest MEP believes that it is crucial that Knock Airport is supported by Government during these challenging times for regional airports.
“The resumption of commercial flights is a very positive and encouraging development, and I look forward to further routes being resumed once non-essential international travel opens up once again in July.
“Knock is one of the State’s four main airports and a critical driver of economic development and tourism in the Border, Midlands and Western regions, supporting thousands of jobs and contributing over €180 million to the regional economy annually. It will be crucial in addressing regional imbalance and reinvigorating the economy in the west of Ireland in the coming years.
“However, it is a very challenging time for our regional airports. Passenger numbers are a fraction of what they once were, and it may be some time before airports become profitable again.
Therefore, it is key that Knock Airport is supported by Government. Tangible investments are needed now,” he stated.