Much has been written and said about the fate of Galway Airport in the past few weeks. So much, that instead of it being a plaintive appeal, it now looks more like whinging.
In online discussions on this paper’s web, Facebook and Twitter pages in which thousands of people engage in conversation every week, the fate of Galway Airport did not elicit many tears. I was quite surprised at the lack of empathy for the facility and the news that it could very possibly be gone at the end of this year. When one questioned this further, there were lots of people who said they had never used the airport, and may never use it for a variety of reasons — expensive parking, exorbitant fares, lack of comfortable facilities etc. Whatever the merits of their argument, it was very obvious that if it is to have any chance of succeeding, Galway Airport has to get its act together, stop whinging and set about giving the people of Galway an airport that they want to use, and not one that they are more than likely going to shun in favour of driving up or down the road to Knock or Shannon respectively.
Much of the commentary in the newspapers and media locally in recent weeks has been verbalising the views of the vested interests, but despite this proclamation of their being a great need for the airport, among Joe Public, this is not the view.
It is obvious that Galway Airport has not been the beneficiary of any great visionairies for some time. Now it is pee or get off the pot time. There needs to be a greater look taken at what the airport is there for, who it can serve — for example, every weekend, more than one thousand football fans leave the west of Ireland to fly to Premiership games in England. Many of these fans would prefer if they had the option of a day trip and until recently they had that. It was possible to fly to London or Manchester on a Saturday or a Sunday morning and fly back late at night. However, since the advent of the Southend route, the latest flight back from London on a Saturday night now leaves at teatime, with customers required to have checked in an hour earlier, right before the end of all football games that afternoon. With one fell swoop, this potentially lucrative market was dismissed, and then we are wondering why people do not use our local airport. That is but one example and there are countless others.
Galway could be developed as a hub for day-tripping football games, and all this would require would be to delay the departing flights from London by a few hours. From August, these fans will not use Galway and more customers are lost.
As a facility Galway Airport is not bad, it fact Southend Airport makes Galway look like La Guardia. It would not take much to turn it around. One million euro is chicken feed to a group of investors - that allied to some cloth cutting will save the airport. Then all you need is some visionaries to give it a new raison d’etre. It can be done.