By Marian Duggan
Ireland West Airport reopens tomorrow (Wednesday) after a three-month closure, with all passengers advised to wear face masks.
Ryanair will offer a reduced service to 10 destinations, including flights to the UK and sun holiday destinations such as Milan, Malaga, and Faro.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the low-cost airline had operated 12 destinations and Aer Lingus offered a service to Gatwick, but this is not expected to return until September.
Airport management is estimating that the reduced flight schedule and demand will push passenger numbers back to 2003 figures. Numbers are expected to drop to fewer than 240,000 this year — a 70% fall from last year’s figures.
Seats on some of the flights were booked long before news of the pandemic broke and it’s unknown if passengers will travel. Safety concerns as well as a lack of clarity on the 14-day quarantine requirement is also expected to hinder the resumption of flights.
Since the airport ceased operations, on Sunday, March 29, staff numbers have been cut by 30% and measures have been put in place to ensure that those who work and pass through the airport can do so safely. Protective screens and signage have been erected, increased disinfecting is ongoing, and all passenger-facing staff will wear masks, explained Head of Marketing Donal Healy.
Only those with a confirmed flight booking should be entering the airport terminal and passengers are advised to wear a face covering on their journey.
Masks are available to purchase at the airport with the duty-free and retail shops open. However, the restaurant facilities are operating at a reduced level.
2020 was promising to be another record-breaking year, with passenger numbers at the airport expected to be well over 800,000. 2019 was the busiest year on record at Ireland West Airport, with passenger numbers climbing by almost 5%, to 807,000, for the first time, surpassing the previous record, of 772,000, in 2018.