Kerry Airport feels Brexit squeeze

By Anne Lucey

A new arrivals hall is planned for Kerry Airport to meet increased numbers and to allow an expanded departures area with bar and restaurant, its agm heard.

But airlines’ fears over Brexit is putting a dampener on further connections with the UK, the meeting in Tralee was told.

At almost 336,000, passenger numbers through the airport in 2017 were up by 3% on 2016. As well as high numbers on the London Stansted, London Luton and Frankfurt-Hahn routes, the important regional routes also saw increased demand.

Larger 70-seat aircraft have been introduced by Aer Lingus Regional operator Stobart Air and some 51,000 people flew with that airline through Kerry during the year.

Kerry Airport’s financial controller Basil Sheerin said as well as the extra capacity, a third flight to and from Dublin on a commercial basis and outside the Public Service Contract was possible.

Denis Cregan who was unanimously re-elected to the chair, outlined how operating profit was up in Kerry, from €267,137 in 2016 to €755,748 in 2017. Turnover increased 5.6% to €6.34m.

However, the airport was still getting “a considerable amount of funding” in grants and a major source of its profitability was from Government funding, he said.

The revenue grant from the Department of Transport and Tourism last year had increased from €626,855 to €1.07m in 2017. There was also capital funding.

EU rules have mandated that regional airports be self-sufficient by 2019 but this will not be met in Ireland, particularly in relation to spend on security and capital works, Mr Cregan said. While Kerry could be said to be profitable, as with the other regionals of Knock and Donegal, the airport depended on Government grants to maintain its operation.

There will again be no dividends for shareholders, management said. It would not be appropriate to do so, given the level of grant aid it received to maintain the operation, Mr Cregan said.

Airlines had turned down requests from Kerry Airport for more services to the UK because of fears over Brexit, the meeting also heard.

“Brexit is going to be a big problem in relation to airlines.

“No-one wants to risk anything in relation to the UK right now, until the lay of the land with Brexit is seen,” Mr Sheerin said in response to a request that the Kerry to Manchester route be renewed, or some connection to the UK midland region is created.

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