Public urged to 'think local' in support of new air service

BUSINESS and local political leaders in Waterford are urging the public to support the new air service between the city and London, a long-awaited link which starts from next Monday.

Environment and Local Government Minister Martin Cullen, the mayor of Waterford councillor Oliver Clery and the president of Waterford Chamber of Commerce Bobby O'Keeffe joined forces to urge leisure and business travellers in Waterford and the southeast to "think local". They want them to support the Aer Arann services linking the South East Regional Airport in Waterford with London Luton.

The service begins from Monday June 9, when Aer Arann, one of the fastest growing regional airlines in Europe, will start daily services linking Waterford and the southeast with London Luton. Onward connections are available to numerous European destinations.

Minister Cullen, who announced a funding package from the Department of Transport and the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources in April that secured the future of the South East Regional Airport, said it is now "absolutely essential" the Aer Arann services are supported.

"Coupled with the Government funding package, the arrival in the southeast of Aer Arann represents the airport's best and possibly final chance of building a sustainable future.

"The importance of having a functioning regional airport when it comes to attracting inward investment and tourists cannot be overstated," he said.

"Given this, it is now incumbent on all of us who put Waterford and the southeast first, to use the scheduled services offered by Aer Arann at every opportunity.

"We have, all rightly, been quick to highlight the importance of direct air access to the region so we must now support the services provided by Aer Arann and ensure that their vote of confidence in the region yields a return."

Mayor Clery said the airport has been through a period of "considerable uncertainty" from which it now has an excellent chance to emerge.

"There has, unfortunately, tended to be a high turnover of airlines operating out of Waterford during the last 20 years or so, but I have little doubt that Aer Arann has real potential to become a long-term operator here.

"They have grown rapidly in recent years and I know they will spare no effort to make a success of the new service that begins on Monday.

"It is though, essential for the people of Waterford and the southeast to support them in this by using the service and promoting it to other potential passengers," he said.

Mr O'Keeffe said that the Chamber was committed to supporting the new service and urged all businesspeople in the south-east to "think local" and back the regional airport.

"Air access has been a Chamber priority for some time now and members were obviously very concerned at the hiatus that occurred following the demise of Euroceltic Airways.

"The airport board is to be commended on its determination to keep the facility alive and the Chamber obviously welcomed the Government funding commitments secured earlier this year as well as the decision by Aer Arann to provide the daily service to and from London.

"However, we must now move on to the next stage and that is to provide support to this Irish-owned and managed airline which has shown such good faith in our region," the Chamber president asserted.

"It is crucial that all of us in business in Waterford think of the airport first when we are considering international travel.

"In this context it should be noted that in addition to providing excellent access to London, the southeast of England and the British midlands, the airport at London Luton also offers a wide range of onward travel options," he said.

"We will be familiarising our members with these in the weeks ahead and I would urge all in Waterford and our neighbouring counties to use this service as often as possible as well as encouraging others to do so."

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