TRANSPORT Minister Noel Dempsey last night met nine of Kerry’s TDs and senators in Dublin in the wake of Ryanair’s decision to cut its Kerry/Dublin service.
An airline announcement that its daily service was to be reduced from three return flights to one, from October 31, has led to angry reaction and fears for the future of Kerry Airport.
The urgency of finding a replacement airline for the route – which is government-subsidised through a public service obligation (PSO) annual payment of €1.7 million – was stressed to the minister.
A special meeting of Tralee Town Council was convened to consider the situation on Tuesday night and Tralee mayor Arthur Spring is to ask Mr Dempsey to meet Kerry’s four mayors.
Mr Spring said the consequences of the Ryanair cutbacks were “enormous” for Kerry and would add to the county’s transport deficit and peripherality.
“Kerry needs an airport with good services to attract investment and help start-up businesses. There are currently 10,000 people registered as unemployed in Tralee and Killarney. The situation is very serious,” he said.
The Tralee mayor said he had been in contact with Aer Arann chief executive Pádraig O Ceidigh, who was now looking at the possibility of coming back into the Kerry/Dublin route.
Aer Arann serviced the route until 2008 but was outbid by Ryanair for the current PSO contract, which lasts until June 2011.
Aer Arann, which is in examinership, is considering requests to return to the route. This would involve the negotiation of a new agreement.
Mr Spring said Mr Dempsey, who is understood to be considering legal action against Ryanair, had the power to award the contract to the next lowest bidder, Aer Arann.
Kerry Airport financial controller Basil Sheerin said the continuation of the PSO service was of “vital importance”, whether through Ryanair or with another airline.
Several organisations in Kerry, including Killarney Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and Holiday Tralee, have joined in calls for other airlines to get involved.
Killarney chamber executive Jerry O’Grady said while cities such as Galway and Waterford, which also had regional airports, were now linked to Dublin by new motorways, the Kerry situation remained unchanged.
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