AT least 280 jobs are at risk in Galway, Waterford and Sligo airports.
The Government no longer has the money to fund the losses of all six regional airports, according to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, and those that are most viable as businesses — Knock, Kerry and Donegal — will be given priority for funding.
“At the end of the year, when the airport loses money they come to the Government and the Government writes them a cheque for that, and that’s not sustainable in the future. What we are going to have to do very quickly, over the next year or so, is to phase out funding for airports that are not able to sustain themselves,” said Mr Varadkar.
Last November, the previous Government announced it would cut €5.5 million from the €15m in funding for regional airports through Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes.
These subsidies for PSOs were described as a lifeline for regional airports.
A separate €2m operational grant is up for renewal at the end of this year.
Managing director of Galway Airport, Joe Walsh, said its PSOs will end in July and it will need €1.7m in state subsidies to stay afloat: “The reality is that without Government support, the airport will close. We’ll lose 60 jobs that are airport specific and the site as a whole supports 180 jobs.”
Waterford Airport directly employs 60 people with a total of 170 people working in the airport including shops, cafes and other facilities. Sligo Airport directly employs 30 people.
Mr Varadkar said he did not accept that up to 17,000 jobs in Galway — mostly in multinational companies — were attributable to direct air access.
“The world has changed,” he said. “We have much better road networks, people are driving now to other airports and obviously the economy has changed as well and people aren’t flying as much.”
Last year, Galway Airport carried out surveys among businesses in the region, including multinationals like Hewlett Packard and Boston Scientific, and more than 80% said air accessibility was essential to their location in the west.
The minister said he will have to find €150m in transport cuts next year.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved