Despite the turmoil in the international aviation industry, Ireland West Airport has reported that it has had its busiest year ever last year, but it has called on key stakeholders in the region to help them secure new route opportunities in 2009.
In 2008, the annual number of passengers using the airport increased by more than 73,000 passengers to 629,000 - an increase of 13 per cent on 2007. The airport predicts that the current economic conditions will continue to influence travel patterns in 2009 but that due to its expanded network of 10 scheduled destinations in the UK and Ireland and the introduction of new charter holiday operators, it expects to grow passenger levels by a modest one per cent - three per cent in 2009.
Robert Grealis, CEO, Ireland West Airport Knock said although 2008 was the busiest year ever, without doubt, 2009 will be a challenge for everyone across the country and particularly for those working in the aviation industry.
“We are committed to continuing to strive for growth whilst remaining focussed on overcoming the difficult economic conditions we face in 2009.
“More than ever we need the support of key stakeholders at regional and national level to aid us in this drive as we continue to develop new route opportunities and expand the airport facilities to enhance passenger services and make Ireland West airport Knock an even more attractive facility for airlines and passengers alike.
“As the international gateway for the west and north west, the airport will support an estimated regional tourism spend of €70 million stemming from our UK tourist traffic in 2009,” he said.
Growth in 2008 stems from Ireland West airport Knock’s scheduled route development throughout the year, with the addition of two new scheduled services to the UK including Glasgow International with bmibaby and a daily service to Liverpool with Ryanair.
In 2009, Ireland West Airport Knock will continue to build on the range of services provided at the airport with the introduction by Aer Lingus of a London Gatwick service commencing in April as well introducing new Thomas Cook tour operator brands, Panorama and Sunworld, to the airport’s tour operator portfolio in summer 2009 when they commence a holiday charter programme to Faro, Portugal. The airport will offer 13 European sun, ski, and pilgrimage destinations in 2009 with tour operators and travel partners Concorde Travel, Falcon JWT, Sunway, Joe Walsh Tours, PC Promotions, Panorama and Sunworld, and build on its winter ski programme with Topflight. New flights and holidays are also available with Swiss Tour Operator Falcontravel Travelhouse to Zurich in Switzerland bookable through local travel agents.
2009 will be an exciting year for Ireland West Airport Knock with the completion of a number of significant civil and building projects at the airport. The implementation of Category II Instrumentation Landing Systems (CAT II ILS ) will enhance the reliability of the airport in poor weather and low visibility conditions and is due for completion in February 2009.
The new €5.5 million terminal extension will be complete in March 2009, doubling the existing check-in area, security screening and departures lounges while offering new retail, catering, and other facilities for passengers to enjoy. Later in the year, a substantial extension to the apron (aircraft parking area ) is planned to meet increased passenger and aircraft traffic, while enhancements and expansions to the car parks and road access are designed to accommodate the new Bus Éireann scheduled services to be introduced early in 2009.
All these developments are part of IWAK’s Vision 2020 - a €46 million capital investment programme which underpins the airport’s goal of developing new short, medium and long haul international air routes and growing annual passenger numbers to some two million by 2020.
2009 will become a milestone year towards completing this strategy.