Knock airport bosses predict record-breaking year

Airport bosses are expecting a record-breaking year in numbers flying to and from the west of Ireland, it emerged today.

Airport bosses are expecting a record-breaking year in numbers flying to and from the west of Ireland, it emerged today.

Latest figures show December and the Christmas season was the busiest ever at Ireland West Airport Knock, with 38,000 passengers passing through.

Although overall traveller numbers fell last year, airport chiefs have set an ambitious target to have annual growth up to almost 700,000.

“Following five consecutive years of double digit growth, our overall passenger numbers for 2007 were 567,000, a decline of 9% on the previous year,” said Robert Grealis, CEO, Ireland West Airport Knock.

“However, our new routes together with the good news that air carrier bmibaby will start a new scheduled route to Glasgow International Airport in February, we are projecting that passenger volumes in 2008 will increase by a quarter to almost 700,000, which will be the busiest year ever in the history of the Airport.”

Mr Grealis said the airport faced significant challenges at the outset of 2007, having lost almost a quarter of its annual passengers due to the withdrawal of a twice daily services to London Gatwick by easyJet and Ryanair in late 2006.

“The loss of these routes has had a significant impact in 2007 but was minimised and offset with the development of scheduled services to East Midlands and Bristol with Ryanair and the welcome re-introduction of a six-times-a-week service to London Gatwick with XL.com in December,” he added.

Meanwhile, the introduction of scheduled transatlantic services to New York and Boston in 2007 was a significant step forward and boost for the airport having carried over 30,000 US passengers during the summer.

Passenger growth is expected to come from the expansion of the airport’s UK route network as well as the continued development of its European charter holiday business which will generate over 90,000 passengers in 2008.

The number of UK visitors are set to surpass half a million, generating almost €67m of spending in the region.

Mr Grealis said the airport is also continuing to implement its €46m infrastructural investment programme, with more than €20m being spent throughout 2008 on services and facilities, including access roads and the airfield, to ensure it remains the gateway to the West and North West of Ireland.

The proposed extension to the terminal building, for which planning permission has been granted by Mayo County Council but which is currently subject to an appeal to An Bord Pleanala, is hoped to commence in the spring and will double the existing check-in area and departures lounges.

Last week it emerged that a full-time Garda Immigration Unit will be based at Knock Airport to improve security and promote future expansion.

One sergeant and seven garda will be permanently based at the Airport from March 31.

Previously, officers travelled from local garda stations every day to vet passengers arriving and departing between 7am-11pm.

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