Knock upbeat despite loss of XL route to Gatwick

Airport chief vows to source replacement carrier in what he predicts will be a difficult autumn

A whole new ballgame — A scene from the launch of XL’s flights from IWAK last winter

A whole new ballgame — A scene from the launch of XL’s flights from IWAK last winter

Chiefs at Ireland West Airport Knock have reacted to the news that XL is to cut its route to and from Gatwick next month by vowing to get a replacement airline despite the remainder of the year being a difficult trading period.

News of XL’s withdrawal has come as a shock to customers and to the airport, but chief executive Robert Grealis feels that the airport, which is experiencing record growth is sufficiently strong to cope with what he believes will a difficult trading period to the end of the year.

Last week XL Airways announced the cessation of Ireland West Knock's London Gatwick service with effect from September 2. Commenting on the cessation of this service, Mr Grealis said that he is disappointed with the news.

“Regrettably, XL's decision to cease operating the Gatwick route comes as a significant disappointment to the airport and passengers in both the London and West of Ireland regions as well as to the tourism and business stakeholders in the region.

“The remainder of the year will be a difficult time for the industry as a whole given current oil prices and economic outlook, however as always the airport will continue to look at every opportunity available to seek a replacement carrier on the route and to sustain and develop more routes at Ireland West Knock.

“We are pleased with the growth we have managed to achieve so far this year and we will continue to build for the long term future. Our €46 million capital investment programme is well under way with works currently concentrating on our terminal building expansion.

“It is a key priority to serve our community by enabling direct jet air access to and from the region which is vital to sustain the west of Ireland's economic and tourism well-being. "

His comments came as the airport announced a 20 per cent growth in passenger numbers for the first seven months of 2008 compared to figures for the same period in 2007.

From January to July 2008, the number of customers using the Airport increased by 63,000 to almost 372,500 passengers.

The continued growth at Ireland West Airport Knock reflects the increasing preference from passengers to fly direct to and from the west and north west regions resulting from the expansion in the airport's UK scheduled flight services in particular.

New services added by airlines bmibaby to Glasgow International and Ryanair to Bristol, as well as increased seat capacity into the London market have been significant factors in this growth. The airport's charter flights to 14 European holiday destinations are remaining steady.

Looking ahead to the forthcoming winter season, the airport management foresees a difficult trading environment in the aviation sector and travel market as the impact of unprecedented high fuel costs and failing consumer confidence and travel activities are having a severe affect on airlines network planning and management.

While a welcome new daily flight service from Ireland West Knock to Liverpool John Lennon Airport with Ryanair will commence on the October 27, the airport does not expect any significant growth to occur in its route destinations for the immediate future.

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