City of Derry Airport is at risk of losing one of its last two scheduled airlines, if recommendations from the Bord Snip Nua report — suggesting cuts to government spending in the Republic — are implemented.
The report proposes ending the public service obligation (PSO) for regional air services, which currently subsidises Aer Arann flights between Dublin and Derry. The route is believed to be heavily loss-making and unlikely to survive if the subsidy is withdrawn.
It is the only scheduled service not operated by Ryanair. Loganair ceased operating from the airport last year.
A recent report to Derry City Council, which owns and runs the airport, warned that further cuts in scheduled flights “cannot be ruled out”. The airport has seen flights fall by 28 per cent in the last year and passenger numbers drop by 33 per cent. The council provides an annual subsidy to the airport of over £3.5m.
Last year Ryanair was operating 37 flights a week from the City of Derry Airport, but that is down to 29 flights a week. There are fresh doubts about whether Ryanair will continue to operate its flights between London’s Stansted Airport and both the City of Derry and Belfast City airports, following its announcement yesterday of cutbacks at its Stansted base.
A spokesman for Ryanair said that no decision had yet been taken on the Stansted links to Northern Ireland. “Decisions will be taken in the following days,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Derry City Council said that it hoped the public service obligation would remain in place on the Derry-Dublin route. “It enables Aer Arann to provide daily scheduled services between the North West and Dublin,” she said. “The Dublin route is an established regional service for the business and leisure community and in 2008 carried 24,702 passengers.”
She added: “In relation to Ryanair’s reduction of services at Stansted, the Airport Authority is aware of these changes and ongoing discussions with Ryanair, regarding future winter schedules, remain positive.”
Aer Arann declined to comment on the impact of the possible withdrawal of the PSO on the Derry-Dublin service.
The existing PSO for Derry-Dublin expires in July 2011. A spokesman for the Republic’s Department of Transport said decisions on the continuation of the PSO would be taken as part of the 2010 Budget.