Covid-19 has been ‘devastating’ for Ireland West Airport

Ireland West Airport says the Covid-19 pandemic has been ‘devastating’ for its business.

Although 2019 was a record year for passenger numbers, a massive fall of 75% is forecast for this year.

In 2019, more than 800,000 passengers used Ireland West Airport.

It was the fourth consecutive year of passenger growth at the airport, with numbers forecasted to reach one million passengers annually in the next two years.

But disaster struck last March with the Corona virus pandemic changing the aviation landscape

On March 30th, the airport was forced to close its doors.

It remained shut shut for 91 days with airport staff ‘furloughed’ and all airport operations suspended.

This followed the news of key airline partner, Flybe, who had been operating from the airport for over ten years, ceasing trading in early March.

This resulted in the loss of longstanding and popular services to Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester.

Although the airport reopened for business on Wednesday July 1st last, the impact of the pandemic has been far reaching.

While air services have resumed with Ryanair at 40% of their planned schedule in operation, passenger numbers are significantly impacted as a result of the current travel advices in place.

Aer Lingus operations on their service to London Gatwick remain suspended with a provisional return date planned in mid-September.

By the end of July passenger numbers had declined by 350,000 compared to the same period in 2019.

The full year forecast for this year will result in a 75% decline in passenger numbers to just over 200,000 – a level last seen almost 20 years ago, in 2001.

The airport says all of this will have a devastating impact on the hospitality and tourism industries in the west and North West of Ireland that rely heavily on the overseas connectivity and the 250,000 inbound visitors annually that travel through the airport.

In addition, the airport has had to reduce its workforce by 25% to respond to a prolonged period of reduced flight services and passenger demand, combined with a major decline in commercial income for the airport.

Overall, it means the airport forecasting revenues to decline by over €11m in 2020.

Since reopening, all staff at the airport are working on a four-day week basis, which has been made possible as a result of the Government Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Arthur French, chairman, Ireland West Airport, says it’s expected to be 2023 at the earliest before aviation returns to pre COVID-19 passenger levels.