Following Ryanair’s announcement that it would be reducing, from three to one, at the end of this month, the number of daily return flights on the Kerry-Dublin route, serious concerns were voiced about the effects on tourism and business in the county.
There were also calls on the Government to ensure the continuation of the €1.7 million Public Service Order (PSO) subsidy, due for review next June.
Two Kerry TDs, John O’Donoghue, Fianna Fáil and Jimmy Deenihan, Fine Gael, will tomorrow meet separately with Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary and Aer Arann boss Padraig O Ceidigh.
About 120,000 passengers – just under a third of the total going through Kerry Airport – travel each year on the Dublin route.
The continuation of both a full service on the route and the PSO grant are seen as vital to the airport’s future, which also has services to London and Europe.
Councillors considered the crux at a two-hour special meeting in Tralee, with Tralee mayor Arthur Spring saying the issue had to be resolved before October 31.
There was a warning from Brendan Cronin (Ind) that the airport had become a pawn in a row between the Government and Ryanair.
The airline and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey have accused each other of breaking the PSO contract.
Mr O’Leary said Ryanair should have received €650,000 compensation because of unexpected costs. Mr Dempsey, however, said the airline had knowingly entered into a contract for the route and had only itself to blame if it did not make the expected profits.
Yesterday’s council meeting was told the minister had discretion on whether extra costs could be redeemed by an airline.
South Kerry Independent Alliance councillor Michael Gleeson, said Kerry had, over the years, lost out on major investment in the country’s road network.
Fianna Fáil councillor John Brassil and Fine Gael’s Jim Finucane said the county should go forward with one voice to ensure a thriving airport.
Labour’s Marie Moloney said Ryanair’s decision had left Kerry Airport in a very vulnerable position.
“While they (Ryanair) have agreed to put on one commercial flight a day, from November, this is of little benefit to the airport and to the passengers who frequently used the flights. The early morning, lunch-time and night-time flights will no longer exist. It is essential that a new airline is awarded the PSO contract to reinstate these flights.”