Minister considering airport review

An independent review on the future of troubled Waterford Airport has been completed and sent to Transport Minister, Shane Ross.

Minister considering airport review

Pádraig Hoare

An independent review on the future of troubled Waterford Airport has been completed and sent to Transport Minister, Shane Ross.

EY was given the task of reviewing operations for the airport, which has been without a commercial carrier since mid-2016.

The Department of Transport said the review was now being considered by Minister Ross.

The future viability of the airport is essential if the south-east region is to prosper economically, according to Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) lecturer and foreign direct investment expert, Ray Griffin.

Unofficial reports have suggested a planning application was in the pipeline for an extension to the runway at Waterford, with private investors and local authorities set to foot the bill.

However, there has been no official comment from Waterford Airport management on any current or future planning application, and there is no record of one with Waterford City and County Council or An Bord Pleanála.

The airport has been without any commercial flights since mid-2016 and received €375,000 in State funds last January to support the Coastguard search and rescue service based at the facility for six months.

In 2012, Waterford Airport had more than 77,000 passengers but numbers dropped significantly in the years after. It carried only 13,500 passengers in 2016.

By contrast, Donegal Airport had more than three times that number in 2016 with 44,100, according to CSO figures. Airport chief executive Desmond O’Flynn stepped down in January.

Mr Griffin, a co-author of the South-East Economic Monitor 2018, said regional airports were not expected to be profitable operations in and of themselves, but rather to facilitate the entire area to prosper.

“Based on studies of other airports, it is reasonable to expect one million passengers would come to the region with commercial operations at Waterford Airport. Tourism will decline even further in the absence of infrastructure, while the south-east is also down in terms of the rate of foreign direct investment compared to other regions.

A combined investment from private sources and all the local authorities in the area in Waterford Airport would be a great boost to the region.

“There is an entrepreneurial spirit here that hasn’t been matched by the State. Airports are not profitable, but are essential to the regions in which they operate,” Mr Griffin said.

Speaking about Waterford Airport in June, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that “it is important that it is assisted in its efforts to encourage carriers to operate again between the south-east and England.”

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