Aviation news always grabs my attention and some of the stories I’ve heard this year are worth commenting on. Firstly, the new Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract for the Kerry-Dublin route began in February with Stobart Air flying the route until the end of the contract in January 2017. This is only one of two PSO routes in Ireland, and these government-funded routes are designed to promote regional balance.
However, it was aviation statistics which showed the serious regional economic imbalance we have in Ireland. In 2014, Dublin Airport accounted for a whopping 81.9% of airport traffic in Ireland. The London aviation hub is the world’s largest in terms of passenger numbers by a long shot, but with 147m passengers the six London international airports still only accounted for 61.5% of total reporting UK airport passenger traffic in 2014.
In terms of the wider economy, Dublin accounts for 53% of Irish economic activity whereas London accounts for 23.4% of UK economic activity. With a general election looming this economic imbalance must be addressed by our political leaders but I strongly encourage the regions to take the initiative. Tourism is an export service and is an excellent industry for creating sustainable employment. Kerry Airport is a wonderful resource and I’d love to see it grow and develop. So here is my wish list of new routes which could invigorate the Kerry economy.
Ryanair’s Frankfurt-Hahn route has been a success for Kerry Airport and the airport is keen to increase passenger numbers from Germany, the world’s third-largest outbound tourism market. Cork and Shannon airports have routes to Munich and Berlin so the most obvious opportunity for Kerry is a route to Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city. Should an Irish airline not be in a position to fly the Hamburg route I suggest approaching German low-cost carriers Germanwings and Air Berlin.
Again, Cork and Shannon airports have routes to Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais airports in Paris and one might feel this is sufficient. However, London and Paris are the only global cities in the EU (i.e. cities with a population >5 million) and with over 120 flights a week to the UK capital from Kerry, Cork and Shannon combined I see potential for a year-round Kerry-Paris route, possibly utilising Orly, the nearest airport to Paris city centre. Like London, Paris is an aviation hub serving destinations around the world and would prove useful in bringing tourists to Kerry from further afield.
Followers of this blog will know that I’m a fan of the Danish capital and with the Scandinavian model the aspiration of social policy makers it’s about time we acquainted ourselves with it, even if it’s through a handful of weekly flights. Scandinavia’s high cost of living means Kerry would be a relatively inexpensive destination. I choose Copenhagen as a potential route as it is Scandinavia’s largest city population-wise and is within driving distance of southern Sweden.
Istanbul – Now there’s a surprise choice! But when you look at the facts it’s not surprising at all. With 14 million people, Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world. Irish prices would be a challenge for many of its residents who enjoy a low cost of living but given such a large population in a rising economy this tourism market has potential.
Rapid expansion by Turkish Airlines in the past few years has led to Istanbul becoming a world transit hub rivalling the likes of Abu Dhabi and Dubai for long-haul Europe-Asia routes. Turkish Airlines flies to more countries than any other airline, and I could see a Kerry-Istanbul route proving popular with the Africa, Asia and Middle East-bound business community in Munster. Like Hamburg and Copenhagen, Dublin is the only Irish airport to serve this Turkish city.
Whether you call my above list a flight of fancy or a realistic aspiration, I sincerely hope it draws attention to the need to address economic imbalance. I also hope that new routes materialise to bring tourists and businesses to the great destination that is Kerry.
But for those of you who have already invested your time and money in visiting my beautiful home county I would like to thank you for doing so. You have made a profoundly positive difference to the livelihoods of many during one of the most economically challenging periods in our history and I hope your visit has been as culturally and socially transformative for you as it has been for us. And I would like to end this post and my blogging year by wishing you a Happy Christmas and the best of luck and fortune for time to come.
Kerry Airport was the first airport I used as a passenger. Have a read of that experience in First Flight.
Update: Since writing this blog post Kerry Airport gained a new Ryanair route to Berlin Schonefeld. Istanbul’s passenger capacity has increased with the opening of a new airport set to become the world’s largest when fully operational.