Kerry Airport targets French connection
Kerry Airport officials want to bring passenger numbers back to 2010 levels – and routes to and from France is their preferred option.
Nine years ago 430,000 passengers used the airport.
More recent figures show that 360,000 passengers used the airport last year. In 2014/15 it was as low as 300,000.
Airport officials, while unable to confirm exact routes, told the Killarney Advertiser that they are actively in talks with Ryanair and other airlines about bringing new routes to Kerry Airport.
Ryanair currently flies to six destinations, London-Luton and London-Stansted in the UK, Frankfurt-Hahn and Berlin-Schoenefeld in Germany, as well as seasonal summer flights to Faro in Portugal and Alicante in Spain.
Aer Lingus, through its Stobart Air subsidiary, services Dublin on a daily basis allowing tourists and locals connect with more international flights from there.
Back in 2010, the airport had a regular Ryanair-operated Liverpool service and Manchester was covered by Aer Arran. Stansted operated daily, sometimes twice daily during peak times, but is now reduced to five-days per week service.
Conor Hennigan runs a hospitality consultancy business in Fossa and in that role acts as a Route Development Consultant with the airport.
“Our ambitions are to grow the numbers and grow the sustainability of each route,” he told the Killarney Advertiser. “Our partners are Ryanair and Stobart Air/Aer Lingus. We are looking at other carriers but we have to be mindful of our partners when we do talk to other carriers.”
Even last week’s news that Ryanair is to close its Faro hub next year, resulting in the loss of one of the airport’s summer destinations is not of huge concern as figures for this flight and Alicante show that there is demand for sun flights and that should be enough for Ryanair to offer a new route to an alternative sun destination from Kerry Airport.
“Ryanair is a key partner of Kerry Airport and we are actively looking for new services,” added Hennigan. “Faro has become an expensive destination and people like to move around and go to new destinations rather than going back to the same place every year. We are hopeful that Ryanair will look at the figures and offer an alternative service in Portugal to suit the Kerry community.”
Summer sun routes are a success story for the airport and are operating at around 90 percent capacity through the season but they are only bringing Irish holidaymakers, especially from the southwest, out of the country to the sun but are not really bringing tourists back in to Kerry.
The Berlin route is performing better than expected, Kerry people are travelling in their droves to the famous German city and locals there are arriving in high numbers to Kerry. A surprise bonus is that Polish people living in Kerry use the flight in much the same way as Kerry emigrants to London keep the Luton flight busy.
While Mr Hennigan would not be drawn into what exact routes the airport is targeting, he said there would have to be a business case that would confirm interest from Kerry travellers wanting a new destination and travellers there wanting to come to Kerry.
“This is a minimum requirement with any airline,” he added.
A continental European hub is on the airport’s radar, recent political commentary has suggested Amsterdam/Schiphol, although Hennigan would not be drawn on the subject either.
Tourism Ireland figures show that 32 percent of French visitors that arrive in Ireland via traditional routes like Cork and Dublin Airport or the ferry ports in Rosslare, Cork and Dublin end up in Kerry at some stage during their visit to the country and a direct link from Paris to Kerry would be one such route that the airport may be interested in.
“On France, our research with the help and support of Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland stated that in 2017, 32 percent of French holidaymakers visited Kerry which was the joint highest percentage of any key European market to Kerry (Germany also had 32 percent) and above the Mainland Europe average of 25 percent to the county and this is one basis for a business case,” he added.