by Marian Duggan
The Government’s green list for overseas travel is of little benefit to Ireland West Airport.
Of the 15 destinations from which people can travel without restriction, Italy is the only one that will affect Knock passengers who can avail of the Ryanair service to Bergamo, a city northeast of Milan, which was devastated by Covid-19 last spring.
The airport’s marketing manager Donal Healy said it is “too soon” to tell if the removal of the requirement to self-isolate after a return from Italy will make any difference to passenger numbers, which are “small” this summer.
“We’re only seeing people travelling home to see loved ones after months being apart and those travelling for work. There are few holidaymakers and numbers on sun holidays are small.”
Ryanair is offering a reduced service from Knock 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 2020 passenger numbers back to 2003 figures.
Some 90,000 passengers were expected to pass through Ireland West Airport this July but that figure could be under the 10,000 mark and annual figures are expected to drop to fewer than 240,000 — a 70 per cent fall from last year’s figures.
Airport CEO Joe Gilmore was on the National Taskforce for Aviation Recovery which made 12 recommendations aimed at ensuring that air travel is reopened in a safe manner and that Ireland’s global connectivity can be recovered over the next number of years as part of the overall recovery of the Irish economy. The taskforce’s report is with the government but there was no mention of the industry in last week’s stimulus package.
There was, however, some good news for the airport last week with the announcement of more than €1m for safety and security projects.
The main body of funding of €569,964 is to support the completion of the rehabilitation of the airport’s 2,400-metre runway and €430,560 will be spent on critical safety-related projects.