New golf club boosts Kerry Airport business

Kerry Airport

The opening of an exclusive golf club on a headland in south Kerry has contributed to a “significant” increase in business for Kerry Airport, the latter’s AGM has heard.

Profits grew by a third at the airport last year, as passenger numbers climbed by 9%, the meeting at the Earl of Desmond Hotel, in Tralee, heard. Operating profit, after taxation, for 2018, of €966,056, was up 33% on the €728,626 recorded in 2017. Total passenger numbers grew to 365,339, up from 335,480.

There was “no single factor” in the success, new chief executive officer, John Mulhern, told his first AGM. However, the new Berlin route, marketing, and the addition of the Hog’s Head Golf Course, in Waterville, had brought in significant traffic in private charter aircraft, Mr Mulhern said. This traffic was continuing.

Flight connections include Dublin, Kerry, London, Frankfurt, and Berlin, along with sun charter flights to Faro and Alicante. New routes to Manchester, the south of France, Italy, and a third German route, along with a new route into Scotland, were being explored, the AGM was told.

Kerry Airport suffers from what is known in the industry as “Ryanair contamination”, which is other airlines being intimidated by Ryanair’s presence, Denis Cregan, chairman of the board, remarked.

Aviation consultant Sammy Harress was voted in as director. He is a representative of Glenmore Capital, owned by the bin Mahfouz family, the Saudi Arabian billionaire banker family, which has been a major shareholder in Kerry Airport since the 1990s.

Proposed and introduced by airport director, Kathleen O’Regan-Sheppard, Mr Haress had already made an impression since he accepted the invitation to be co-opted onto the board in March, she said.

Mr Harress, who is based in Cyprus, is a chief executive of Jetstream Aviation, a VIP private jet management and operations company specialising in the acquisition, outfitting, servicing, and management of jets.

Mr Cregan said the 3,000 shareholders, corporate and individual, had become involved in the airport to enhance the quality of life in Kerry and help it access the world, and did not do so for personal gain.

He said directors worked pro bono, and although a plc, Kerry Airport had never paid a dividend. “Paying a dividend, at the same time as canvassing for Government aid, is not compatible,” he said.

State funding subsidises the Dublin-to-Kerry route and contributes towards operational and capital expenditure. Government grants last year were over €10m.

The “debate” about the future development of an international subsidised PSO route to Europe had begun, and the airport was fully behind the idea, shareholders were told. Turnover at the airport increased from €6.34m to €7.9m.

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