TRANSPORT Minister Noel Dempsey was yesterday called on to enter into immediate talks with Aer Arann and Aer Lingus to replace services controversially withdrawn by Ryanair from the Kerry/Dublin route.
There was angry reaction to Ryanair’s announcement that it will reduce its services on the route from three to one return flight per day, from October 31.
And there were also warnings the decision could threaten the future of Kerry Airport, which suffered an 11% drop in passenger numbers last year.
Amid claim and counter claim – with Ryanair and Mr Dempsey accusing each other of not honouring a public service order (PSO) contract for the route – there were urgent calls to get other airlines to service the critically important route for the airport.
Under the PSO – a state subsidy for regional air services – Ryanair receives €1.7 million annually for the Kerry/Dublin route.
Mr Dempsey strongly denied Ryanair claims he had dishonoured his contract by refusing to increase PSO payments following Government-imposed cost increases.
“That’s untrue,” he said. “From what I can see, Ryanair either got its bid (for the PSO) colossally wrong, or made a predatory bid and cannot fulfil it.”
He said Ryanair was doing as much as it could to squeeze as much as possible out of airports and to get competition out of regional airports.
Kerry Airport is totally dependent on Ryanair for all its scheduled services and has been finding it extremely difficult to attract other airlines.
Both Aer Lingus and Aer Arann, which is now in examinership, formerly serviced the Kerry/Dublin route.
Mr Dempsey said Ryanair was using a large aircraft to service the route, which was not viable, but a smaller aircraft could be viable.
“Slots are now available for smaller airlines and I think that’s the direction we should go,” he pointed out.
Mr Dempsey’s former cabinet colleague and Kerry South FF TD John O’Donoghue called on him to immediately enter into dialogue with Aer Lingus and Aer Arann with a view to replacing Ryanair.
He also said the PSO for the Kerry/Dublin route should be re-advertised.
“Ryanair has not honoured its contract to provide three flights per day to Dublin for three years,” Mr O’Donoghue claimed.
“It is quite clear Ryanair has been using its monopoly position to make regional airports dependent on it.
“We need competition to take on Ryanair which is in a dominant position in the market.”
Kerry North FG TD Jimmy Deenihan warned the reduction in Kerry/Dublin services would be devastating to Kerry businesses and tourism.
“Alongside this, the decision could threaten the future viability of Kerry Airport as there will be a major reduction in landing fees accruing to the airport.”
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