Action needed as IWAK passengers 90 per cent drop

Passenger numbers have collapsed by 90 per cent over the summer months at Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK ) and the airport's chairman, Arthur French, has called for urgent action by the Government to address this collapse.

He also outlined that the airport had reduced its workforce by up to 50 per cent on 2019 staffing levels to try and get through the current crisis.

Earlier this week, the business community of Galway, Mayo and Sligo, led by the regional chambers, united for the first time to call with one voice for Government to respond to the challenges currently facing Ireland West Airport Knock.

They are urgently seeking a meeting with Hildegarde Naughton TD, Minister of State at the Dept of Climate Action and Transport, and Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport, to discuss this matter.

The issue was also raised in the Dáil on Wednesday evening by Deputy Alan Dillon, who said: "Earlier this week the chambers of commerce in Mayo, Galway and Sligo called for additional support via the regional airports' programme.

"The financial situation of Knock Airport has deteriorated as a result of collapsing passenger numbers. This is especially disappointing as estimates for the airport had expected 2020 to be its busiest year yet, getting ever closer to breaking the figure of one million passengers per annum", he said, adding that: "Special consideration needs to be given to regional airports in the upcoming budget as they will play an increasing role in spreading passenger numbers when air travel moves towards normal levels versus over-reliance on Dublin Airport and funnelling passengers there."

Airport Chairman Arthur French, in his call for support, said: "We welcome the statement from the regional chambers and business communities across the west and now call on Government, in advance of next month’s budget, to provide urgent support through an expanded regional airports programme for the airport to address the enormous financial losses resulting from the devastating collapse in passenger traffic as a result of Covid-19.

"The restrictive green list and 14-day quarantine restrictions are prohibitive for travel and airlines cannot continue to sustain routes at the current passenger volumes.

"The airport to date has implemented significant cost-saving measures and reduced its workforce by up to 50 per cent through a process of layoffs and redundancies, compared to 2019 staffing levels, with remaining staff on reduced hours to ensure we can continue to operate through this period and reduce our losses during this pandemic.

"This however, is not sustainable going forward at the current traffic levels. We acknowledge the continued support of the Department of Transport and Ministers Eamon Ryan and Hildegarde Naughton but now need urgent Government intervention, through an enhanced Regional Airport’s funding programme, as we face into a critical winter period."

Speaking about their support for the airport, Kenny Deery, CEO of Galway Chamber on behalf of the chambers untied group, said this week: "Our regional airports are of critical importance to the West of Ireland, in providing essential connectivity to global markets for regional businesses, in providing a gateway for much-needed tourists and in attracting foreign direct investment into the region. That is why we, as a business community, are coming together to ensure the sustainability of Ireland West Airport Knock.

"Ireland West Airport Knock had 807,000 passengers use their airport last year, and as of now, will be incurring a significant loss this year. The Business Community of the West are seeking Government intervention to bridge those losses.

"The reason for these losses does not lie solely as a direct result of Covid-19. Ireland’s travel restrictions are some of the most restrictive in Europe. The longer these restrictions are in place the greater the risk they pose to the West Region’s competitiveness and future economic recovery.

"While the business community of the West appreciate that public health advice must take priority, they cannot ignore the fact that Government-imposed travel restrictions are creating significant implications for our regional airports.

"The Western Business Community have called for an urgent meeting with Ministers to discuss the importance of Ireland West Airport Knock to our region."


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