Waterford Airport comes of age

South-East Correspondent Neans McSweeney looks back at 21 busy years of international flights.

WATERFORD Airport is celebrating the 21st anniversary of the first international scheduled air service from the south-east of Ireland.

Operated by Ryanair with a twin turbo prop aircraft with capacity for 15 passengers, the Waterford-London Gatwick service began in July 1985. The 90-minute service left Waterford at 8.30am with the return flight leaving Gatwick at 7pm.

In the first week of the new service from the then recently-established airline, bookings had exceeded the expected level by some 40%.

Congratulating Waterford Airport on reaching the important milestone, Transport Minister Martin Cullen said that regional airports were highly important drivers of economic activity and key tools in helping to achieve balanced regional development.

“It is airports like Waterford and the others in the regional network that help spread tourism and inward investment more evenly throughout the country. Tremendous credit is due to those who have had the vision and work ethic to drive these airports forward since the early 1980s.

“In Waterford’s case, Nicky Fewer and his board are rightly very ambitious for the airport, as are the local authorities and those who promote Waterford as a destination for both visitors and investors.”

To mark the celebrations, 21 local schoolchildren enjoyed a special behind-the-scenes look at the airport.

Airport chairman Nicky Fewer said that the facility was enjoying its best ever passenger numbers on Aer Arann services to London Luton, Manchester and Lorient in north west France with the Pilot Training College (Ireland) and Blue Star Helicopters training the pilots of tomorrow.

“It’s been a long and challenging journey from the 1980s to where we are today and I want to pay tribute to all of the chairmen, directors, management and staff who have worked so hard to make the airport the success that it is now becoming,” Mr Fewer said.

“We have also enjoyed tremendous support from the south east region through the various tourism bodies, local authorities and, in particular, public representatives. Perhaps most of all, I want to thank all of the business and leisure passengers who make Waterford their first choice for travel to the UK and France,” he added.

“To put the start of the UK flights from Waterford in some context, I was looking at contemporary newspaper reports recently and 1985 brought the summer of the ‘moving’ statues in Ireland. July was also the month that the Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia saw the people of Waterford and surrounding areas pledge over IR£174,000 for famine relief in Ethiopia with 6,629 calls processed through the Waterford telephone exchange. We are, of course, seeing similar generosity displayed this summer towards the O’Regan Family Appeal.”

While it was on July 8, 1985, that Ryanair had their inaugural flight on the Waterford-London Gatwick route, there is another significant milestone for Waterford Airport this year in that it will be 25 years in December since the granting in 1981 of an operational licence by the Department of Transport & and Power to the airport.

* Further information about passenger services and flight training options at Waterford Airport are available online at www.flywaterford.com, while bookings for Aer Arann services can be made through www.aerarann.com, at travel agents or by calling 0818-210210.

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