Ryanair’s announcement that it would operate the Kerry-Dublin route vacated by the collapse of Stobart Air without state support has been met with skepticism by airport and tourism figures in Kerry.
Tom Randles, General Manager and Director of Randles Hotels in Killarney and a board member of Kerry Airport, PLC, believes that Ryanair’s interest in the route is more about “stop[ping] any other airline winning the contract” rather than providing an ongoing service.
Ryanair said that it would serve the route with a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which can carry up to 189 passengers – considerably more than the 48-72 capacity of the ATR 42/72 operated by Stobart Air.
Load Factor Concerns
“For commercial success, airlines operate on high fares and high load factor,” Randles said to ITTN. “Kerry-Dublin does not achieve these load factors but is essential to a regional county such as Kerry for social, commercial and general use.”
“As a region county, Kerry suffers poor access and needs government support.”
Randles is concerned that Ryanair’s pointed declaration that it wouldn’t enter into a PSO contract means “they can pull the route when [it] suits. Ryanair is not committing to the PSO as they don’t want to be contractually tied down.”
Ryanair said they would begin the route as daily service, going to double-daily from 1 September. Without a PSO contract, it is highly unlikely that the airline could make the route commercially viable.
‘Inaccurate and Premature’
The whole issue may yet be moot, as Kerry Airport issued a statement yesterday, 15 July, saying that “the Airport has received no notification in any form from Ryanair and thus the airline’s statement of yesterday, Wednesday, July 14th, is both premature and inaccurate.”
“Kerry Airport has not been informed of the details relating to any such schedule and, at present, cannot confirm or otherwise whether these flights will in fact operate.”
Will They, Won’t They?
According to the Irish Independent, Ryanair had confirmed with the Department of Transport that it would service the route without a PSO contract, but once the government issued a statement to that effect, Ryanair quickly countered and said that it hadn’t reached final agreement on operating the route.
The Department of Transport then released correspondence between it and Ryanair DAC CEO Eddie Wilson, which indicated that the carrier would in fact begin operating the route on a commercial basis from 19 July.
The airline then released another statement indicating that they would.
As of yesterday, Ryanair’s website is selling flights on the route from €19.99.
A Commercial Matter
Asked for a comment, the Department of Transport said that Minister Eamonn Ryan “would encourage Ryanair and Kerry Airport to engage on what is now a commercial matter between Ryanair and Kerry Airport.”
Ryanair did not respond to a request for comment.
For Tom Randles, the most important issue is safeguarding the future of the route.
“The Kerry-Dublin route is critical to the airport as it requires the airport to stay open and pays normal fees. Without these fees the airport will not be able to open fully,” he said.