Airport seeking new continental routes

Dónal Hickey

Last year, 400,000 passengers passed through the Farranfore facility and about 90% were tourists.

The Frankfurt/Hahn route, operated by Ryanair, has been hailed as one the airport's biggest successes, bringing in almost 200 people per day, all year round.

"We find the German visitors to be very good tourists, who generally stay for a week or two and circulate around the south west," said airport spokesman Peter Bellew.

There are also daily Kerry/Stanstead and Kerry/Dublin flights, which are used by thousands of Kerry people.

Mr Bellew said they had never worked harder than in the past six months to generate new business, especially from other EU destinations, but they were finding the market to be extremely tough.

He also said the fact that other airports were actually paying Ryanair 50 cent per passenger rather than the other way round was making it more difficult for Kerry Airport.

There's a E6 million plan for an upgrading of the arrivals and departures area at Kerry Airport and improvements to baggage handling facilities are also in the pipeline.

However, Mr Bellew said the runway, already extended to take jet traffic, including transatlantic 757 aircraft, was adequate for current needs.

Oireachtas members for Kerry recently held a meeting with Mayor Ned O'Sullivan and County Manager Martin Riordan and the future of the airport was one of the issues discussed.

The council may zone some of the land surrounding the airport for 'strategic' purposes to ensure land is available for future developments and industrial purposes.

While the airport has seen a dramatic rise in passenger throughput in recent years, it still has no transatlantic service.

The latest Kerry tourist survey found that 12% of visitors now come to Kerry via the airport, compared to 3% in 1997.

However, a third of tourists who come to Kerry arrive through Dublin Airport, twice as many as come through Shannon Airport.

Kerry Airport is to continue developing direct flights to continental destinations, linking the county with large tourist markets, the airport company's annual general meeting was told yesterday.

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