N6S1Pic1“Commercial discussions with a potential new airline operator are currently at a very advanced stage and Waterford Airport hopes that positive news on scheduled air services will be forthcoming in the near future.”
That was the brief but welcome statement issued by Waterford Airport last week after news broke that a prospective new airline, named Aer South East, is set to operate a single aircraft, servicing the London-Luton route, reportedly within the next two or so months.
The prospective new airline is owned by Skytruckers Ltd, a company which was established on March 9th, with a registered address at Killowen according to company-checking website, SoloCheck.ie.
City & County Mayor Adam Wyse (FF), who sits on the Airport Board along with Councillor John Cummins (FG) told this newspaper that “there might be good news in relation to a carrier hopefully coming back in”.
He added: “But it’s not going to be a 100 to 150 seater like we need for the Airport to be really stable, I’d imagine. We’re probably not going to be able to get an aircraft of that capacity servicing routes to and from Waterford until we get the funding for the runway (extension) and that’s the only thing holding up the Airport. My constituents know that I’m on the Airport Board and I get a lot of calls and ‘reps’ from constituents, along with members of my own family, about when we’ll have flights back in place between here and England – and beyond for that matter. And it’s vital, not just for Waterford, but for the south east as a whole, that we have a viable Airport.”
In relation to regional airports, the Programme for Government states: “Building on engagement between Government and regional airport management, we will seek to invest an additional €10 million to intensify efforts to properly prepare our regional airports for a future where they can operate on a standalone commercial basis. This new investment will be in addition to the €28 million already committed.” As has been noted previously, no regional airport is specifically referred to in that document.
Mayor Wyse told The Munster Express: “We’ve been given that funding commitment for a long time now, in relation to funding for the runway and again, Minister John Halligan had said when going into Government with Fine Gael, that he would be looking for funding for the Airport and I’m sure that he is continually trying to secure that.
“So I would appeal to him to continue to press on with those efforts because we’re not at the races with other cities such as Cork and Dublin when it comes to our national transport infrastructure because of the lack of funding for the runway, and if we could secure a runway extension and draw in the 100 to 150 seat aircraft, I’m sure we’d see Waterford opening up to a few more destinations beyond the UK: and it’s important that we think beyond Luton, Manchester and Birmingham, important and all as those connections certainly are, and I know that this is a well-established aspiration of the Board too…
“We need the Government to give us the opportunity, with funding, with us in Waterford then being able to match it and back it and show that we will have the support of the people of Waterford to back and use a service when it’s introduced. Without that kind of joined-up thinking, and without working together, then the Airport is going to stand still forever.”
VLM, which carried 45,000 passengers between Waterford and Birmingham between April 2015 and June 2016, discontinued all flights to and from Waterford Airport on June 16th 2016.
Waterford Airport remains open to corporate jets, leisure flying and flight training and is also home to the Coast Guard’s Search And Rescue Helicopter (Rescue 117) Base.
Incidentally, Wednesday, May 10th was the Airport’s busiest single day for aircraft movements since 2008, totalling 176, composed of training flights, helicopter visits, the presence of the Aer Corps and a mission for R117.
Mayor Wyse extolled the need for locals to get behind a service if and when it is restored, and pointed out the convenience which Killowen provides to would-be users in the greater Waterford area.
“If you’re heading to Dublin or Cork (Airports), and particularly if you’ve kids in the back of the car, the chances are you’ll need to stop along the way for a whole host of reasons, and a good deal of those stops will lead to additional costs.
“Then you’ve the price of driving to and from Dublin, for example, as well as the price of car parking too, so while a €30 per head (flight) ticket might be on a standalone basis, pretty cheap, it doesn’t take long for additional costs to tally up…there’s just none of that stress if you’re flying from Waterford as we have in the past.
“And when any of us would have been flying into Waterford previously, you’re doing so safe in the knowledge that you’re only a few minutes from the city, half an hour from the middle of the county and 45 minutes from Dungarvan once you’ve come through check-in, got your bag and got behind the wheel. And we need to get that back into our mindset once we have a carrier back in place. It’d be fantastic to have that sort of convenience back on our doorstep sooner rather than later, and I hope as many of us as possible get behind that carrier once we have one in operation again.”