Airport board chairman Denis Cregan said the airport was actively seeking new routes to the UK and Germany with current partners Ryanair and potential new airlines, but also needed to increase passenger loading on existing routes.
Replying to shareholders’ questions at his board’s AGM in Tralee yesterday, he said Ryanair wanted an 83% loading. The loading on the Kerry/Luton route was 78%, while the Dublin route was 61%.
“We need more support from people for these routes, as well as for any new routes we may get. We don’t find airlines queuing up to fly into and out of Kerry,” Mr Cregan said.
The meeting heard that finding new routes is a “slow burner”.
The Farranfore facility is very dependent on state funding, which came to €507,000 in grants last year from the Department of Transport, Mr Cregan also pointed out.
The airport had a 4% turnover drop last year to just over €6m, but the chairman said the company is well financed and does not rely on external sources of borrowings. Mr Cregan stressed the importance of regional airports and having good access to the entire West of Ireland. Of the 33 million people who come onto the island annually, 22m people came through Dublin, he said.
He welcomed initiatives like the Wild Atlantic Way, but said there would have to be continuing efforts to get people to visit parts of the country outside of Dublin, or the imbalance would only get worse.
Shareholder Eddie Barrett made a presentation, including a 17-minute film, on behalf of a group which is seeking to have the name of famed Kerry-born Antarctic explorer Tom Crean incorporated into the name of the airport.
He said a Facebook page had been set up to promote the idea and 6,000 people in 90 countries supported it. They wanted it called Kerry Crean Airport and he was “absolutely certain” it would be a good business for Kerry.
Mr Barrett said the Crean family supported the idea.
Mr Cregan told the meeting the airport board had previously considered a proposal to include Crean’s name, but felt something much greater and more permanent in nature was needed to honour a personality of Crean’s stature, following a “most impressive” presentation, the board would reconsider the proposal, he said.