Cork and Shannon airports are asking the Irish government to revise State aid rules for airports, warning of future growth challenges. Cork Airport’s managing director Niall McCarthy will address the Oireachtas transport committee, calling for a post-Covid policy change.
He will ask that the Irish State revises the Regional Airports Programme eligibility threshold for State aid, aligning it with the EU norm. Kerry Airport is requesting a one-time show of support to fund expansion plans. Representatives from Ireland’s regional airports will address the committee on national aviation policy.
Cork’s Future Growth Faces Financial Challenges
Cork Airport has warned that its future growth faces a “very challenging financial situation” and is not eligible for funding under the current Regional Airports Programme. Although Cork and Shannon became eligible during Covid-19, they will be ineligible when passenger numbers rebound, necessitating a policy change.
McCarthy will argue that continued investment in Cork Airport will benefit the local economy and tax revenues.
Shannon Airport Group Requests Inclusion in Regional Airports Programme
The Shannon Airport Group will tell the committee it should be included in the programme supporting regional airports and is seeking a policy change. The Group said the programme is important for Shannon Airport to invest in safety and security projects, decarbonise its operations, and grow connectivity to benefit Ireland economically.
Kerry Airport CEO Calls for Decentralisation of Air Traffic
John Mulhern, Kerry Airport’s chief executive, has called for a modest decentralisation of air traffic to support the airport’s growth. He hopes the airport will expand its connections to London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol.
He is requesting a one-time-only basis for funding the expansion, which will support local SMEs, increase employment, and provide additional tourist bed nights during the summer season.
Transport Minister Hildegarde Naughton previously noted that the Irish government would have to consider the exchequer implications of such a move.
What To Expect
As Cork Airport and Shannon Airport are doing well, they may be ineligible for funding under the Regional Airports Programme. The proposed policy change may increase the eligibility threshold to three million passengers annually, providing access to funding for all airports in Ireland that cater to fewer than three million passengers annually.
If the threshold is increased, Cork Airport could continue its strong growth trajectory, while capital investments funded by the programme could focus on sustainability and addressing the global climate challenge. S
Such an expansion could prove costly, which is why Kerry Airport’s CEO John Mulhern, is requesting a one-time show of support from the committee to fund the airport’s expansion.
He is also asking for a modest decentralization of air traffic to support the airport’s growth, with a new route potentially resulting in an additional “1,200 tourist bed nights per week during the summer season”.
The route could positively impact the rural economy, increase employment, and support local SMEs. Mulhern has also called for a re-establishment of the Dublin-Kerry route on a public service obligation basis if Ryanair’s position regarding the