REGIONAL airport operators have criticised the €10 airport tax announced by the Government in last week’s budget. <
Representatives of airports at Galway, Knock and Sligo yesterday condemned the tax because it was placing the country’s regional airports at a further disadvantage with the state airports at Dublin, Cork and Shannon.
Robert Grealis, chief executive officer of Knock Airport, told a meeting of the joint Oireachtas committee on transport that the tax was “totally unjust and unacceptable”.
Mr Grealis pointed out that passengers from Ireland’s regional airports to most British destinations would have to pay the €10 tax, while people flying from Dublin to the same destination might only have to pay a €2 tax because routes less than 300km attracted the lower levy.
He also claimed that the airport tax was anti-competitive and possibly in breach of EU competition law.
TDs and senators heard that the tax would have serious consequences for the future development of regional airports at a time of downturn in the aviation industry.
Mr Grealis predicted that passenger traffic through Knock would fall by 5% next year because of the tax, a reduction which would wipe out any gain from its imposition.
Liam Scollan, managing director of Knock Airport said the west and north-west remained “grossly under-served” by air transport. He told the committee the region only had a sixth of the air access capacity of the rest of the republic.
“It is the starkest example of regional imbalance,” said Mr Scollan.
Joe Walsh, managing director of Galway Airport, complained that regional airports were forced to pay up to 20% more for aviation fuel, because they could not avail of the same discounts offered to the larger airports. He also noted that they had to fund all costs for air traffic control services at their airports when the three main airports had such services provided by the Irish Aviation Authority.
Sligo Airport manager Joe Corcoran described the tax as “ill-conceived” as it failed to recognise the important role which regional airports had in the strategic development of the country.
The representatives of all three airport also criticised the absence of transit facilities at Dublin Airport which they claimed represented a failure of the Government’s aviation policy.
However, Transport Committee chairman Frank Fahey (FF) expressed concern that the west’s four regional airports, which were located within two hours of each other could all survive in the current economic climate.
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