New air service looks set to secure regional airport’s future

A NEW air service set up at a regional airport which was saved from closure has got off to a flying start.

Daily return flights provided by Aer Arann, linking the Waterford Regional Airport and London Luton, are proving popular with the business public and tourists.

Planes are more than two thirds full each day, Environment Minister, Martin Cullen, heard as he officially launched the service yesterday.

The daily flights have been operating since June 9 and in its first five weeks the service had an average of 33 passengers per flight. The airline also reports that advance bookings for July and August are encouraging.

The service is provided using a 48-seater ATR42 aircraft which leaves London Luton at 1.05pm and Waterford at 3pm each day and has an average journey time of under 90 minutes. Return fares start at €129 including taxes and charges.

Speaking at the official launch of the service, Minister Cullen recalled how the airport located in his Waterford constituency was first granted its full flying wings just over 21 years ago in March 1982 when the then Department of Transport and Power sanctioned a licence for international flights.

"After a period during which much genuine concern was expressed about the airport's future, I was delighted in April of this year to announce a €1.185 million funding package from the Department of Transport and the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources to secure that future," Minister Cullen told local business and political leaders at a reception in the airport.

Commenting on demand for the service to date, Padraig O'Ceidigh, managing director, Aer Arann said: "We are delighted with the support the Waterford-London Luton route has received to date from travellers in the south-east and the efforts of Nicky Fewer and his team at the South East Regional Airport are to be commended in this regard.

"This route, together with recently launched services from Dublin, Galway and Cork, consolidates our strategic commitment to delivering necessary air access from the regional airports of Ireland to key urban centres in the UK."

Airport chairperson Mr Fewer said: "Minister Cullen devoted considerable time and effort earlier this year to securing the funding package he announced at the airport in April and without his efforts the outlook would have been very bleak. Padraig O'Ceidigh and his team at Aer Arann have brought great energy and professionalism to bear in terms both of providing the London Luton service and marketing it here and in the UK."

For more information about the Waterford-London Luton service contact Aer Arann reservations on 0818 210 210, or visit www.aerarann.com.

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