“VLM’s presence at Waterford Airport, though short-lived, has proved once again that a sustainable level of passenger traffic exists in the catchment area for Waterford Airport. This can be harnessed for further development of aviation activity, particularly with an extended runway, where the Airport can offer in conjunction with its future airline partners the right air services at competitive pricing.”
These were the concluding sentiments offered by Waterford Airport plc Chairman Dan Browne in the statement which accompanied the Airport’s Annual Report for 2015.
Yet here we are, two days into 2018, and the Killowen facility frustratingly remains without a carrier, and we still await a confident noise from the Board about the delivery of a long-term, viable airliner connecting the South East with the UK and Continental Europe.
We sincerely hope that this significant gap in our tourism infrastructure can be successfully addressed in the next few months, and that a repeat of the Aer Southeast disappointment will be avoided.
Given that our tourism sector is doing well, and with talk of a new ‘Viking Coast’ proposition emerging in recent days, the introduction of an airline servicing Waterford Airport now appears more vital than ever.
And given the lengthy wait for anything approaching positive news, it appears the time has come to create a taskforce commissioned with the task of ensuring the Airport remains open.
An allocation of €870,000 was granted to the Airport by the Department of Transport last September, and another €1m was delivered by Shane Ross’s office last month.
And one suspects there are more than a few people who’d suggest that an investment into a second Cath Lab at UHW would be more practical and beneficial use of State monies when compared to investing into a facility which, at present, has very little income. But we cannot give up Waterford Airport’s long-term future without at least waging one last, meaningful bid to deliver a carrier. And we feel it’s a battle worth taking on.
We believe that people living in our region would use Waterford as an option given the increased congestion of the M50 to and from Dublin Airport.
We realise this is a tough challenge and we know that Minister of State John Halligan is doing what he can in terms of delivering the long-awaited runway extension.
And while the ‘can’t have one without the other’ argument persists when it comes to a new carrier and the runway, securing a carrier has to take priority right now.
So a task force could, we feel, quickly establish what lease-ready aircraft are available which would be suitable for Waterford’s runway.
We need routes to London Luton and Manchester re-established promptly, ideally before the end of March. We also know the Saudi investors for the North Quay are keen to see the Airport up and running – could local finance be generated locally to assist in this bid?
All the way back to the early 90s, former MEP John Cushnahan said a runway extension and the delivery of a University would form part of the bigger jigsaw that would piece together Waterford’s recovery. We’re still waiting for both, unfortunately.
Of course there is risk involved in taking on this challenge, but that challenge comes with opportunity. Alas, time is running out when it comes to Waterford Airport taking commercial flight once more. But we cannot give up in terms of this particular pursuit.