Knock Airport ‘well ahead’ of passenger target

Passenger numbers for 2013 were 3 per cent below record of 686,000 in 2012

The number of people travelling through Knock Airport fell in 2013 but the company says it is ahead of this year's 700,000 target.

The latest accounts for Connaught Airport Development Company, which operates the Co Mayo airport, state that it lost €659,000 before tax last year, excluding aid received from the taxpayer.

The company also reports that passenger numbers for the year were 665,400, 3 per cent below the record of 686,000 that it reached in 2012, when airlines launched a number of new services from there to destinations in Spain, Germany, Italy and France.

The directors' report, signed by chairman Joe Kennedy, states that the airport was confident of reversing the decline this year "with further positive growth in passenger numbers".


Mr Kennedy and fellow board member, Patrick Gallagher, forecast that it would attract 696,000 passengers in 2014. According to a spokesman, the numbers are "well ahead" of this target.

“The UK market in particular has performed very strongly with UK services showing a 9 per cent increase year to date versus 2013 which given the current economic environment and the challenging nature of the aviation is very positive,” he said at the weekend.

The company’s revenues were broadly flat at €13.9 million in 2013. Increased wages and staff numbers and professional fees associated with a Government study group added €200,000 to administrative expenses.

It received €654,000 from the State to help cover operating costs, but its spokesman argued that it receives the smallest Exchequer contribution of the four regional airports relative to its passenger numbers.

Connaught Airport Development is spending €1.9 million this year on a runway upgrade required to meet aviation safety standards. The work accounts for the bulk of its €2.1 million capital expenditure programme.

According to its figures, the Government will give it €1.7 million towards this work. It received €1.2 million from State coffers for its 2013 spending programme, which included beginning the work on its runway.

Knock, along with the Republic's other regional airports in Donegal, Kerry and Waterford, faces the loss of Exchequer support under a new Government aviation policy drafted earlier this year, which says that this has to be phased out in line with EU requirements.

The draft policy document states that future capital grants will be limited to safety- and security-related spending, while clear business plans will be required from the airports, which will have to provide at least 25 per cent of total costs from their own resources, or fresh investment.

However, local representatives argue that Knock should continue to receive support. The airport is in Taoiseach Enda Kenny's Mayo constituency. Recently his party colleague, Michelle Mulherin, wrote to him arguing that it should qualify for subsidies similar to those given to airports in the Scottish highlands and islands.

She also claimed that the restructuring of Shannon and its merger with a wider regional development group actually means that the State-owned airport is getting more favourable treatment thank Knock.

Regional airports get grants for capital spending and to fund their day-to-day businesses, if their running costs exceed their revenues. Last year the four of them received almost €5.7 million in State subsidies.

More than €2.2 million was to cover losses at Kerry, Knock and Waterford, while €3.455 million was for earmarked for spending on their facilities.

Opponents of this approach say that it confers an unfair advantage on regional airports relative to State-owned Cork, Dublin and Shannon, which are obliged to operate commercially.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas