During this week’s meeting at the joint Oireachtas committee on transport, the group MD along with the CEO of Ireland West Airport Knock urged the Government to address and amend a number of aviation policies which are adversely affecting growth at the international airport and which are conferring unfair competitive advantages on other airports in Ireland.
Liam Scollan, Board Director and Group MD of Ireland West Airport Knock, and Robert Grealis, CEO, both of whom were invited by the committee to represent the airport, presented their views on issues affecting regional airports including the imbalance of access provided outside Dublin Airport and how it can best plan for developing access to its region including long-haul routes.
Mr Scollan acknowledged the capital investment by the Government in the expanding Knock Airport however, there were still “serious concerns over several anomalies in the aviation industry in Ireland which are distorting competition and adversely affecting our airport and the region served by the airport”.
One such negative impact, according to Mr Scollan, was that of the new air tax imposition which will have “an extremely negative impact” on the airport as Dublin Airport passengers will be charged €8 fly to less to major UK destinations.
Another “unjust and unacceptable” issue is that a levy of €62,000 per year was also imposed by the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR ), despite the fact that the CAR has no direct remit for Ireland West Knock as it has for the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA ). Effectively this means that “Ireland West Knock is now subsidising CAR’s services to the DAA. Furthermore larger State airports enjoy free air traffic control (ATC ) services while regional airports like Ireland West Knock fund their own.”
The group MD also highlighted another deficiency in that some regional airports receive substantial annual operational subsidies in excess of €500,000 per year, however Ireland West Knock, which is an independent airport, receives no operational subsidy and yet still provides low-cost aviation and is profitable. This is fundamentally wrong, he said, as it seems that the scheme rewards inefficiencies and does not recognise success.
The encouragement of tourism in the area through the 450,000+ low fares air seats made available for inbound tourists from the UK through Ireland West Knock should be focused on, as should the aim of reinstating US flight services and regaining US tourism traffic to the west/north west region.
Mr Scollan concluded that “Ireland West Airport Knock is responsible for contributing circa €75 million in tourism spend, supporting over one million bed nights and almost 1,000 jobs in our region. We want to ensure that the air access which we have invested so heavily in is not threatened but supported.”