Thursday, 19 October 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
27. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if she has made representations to, or had any contact with, Aer Lingus regarding the company's bid for the Dublin-Kerry route; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22506/00]
43. Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if her attention has been drawn to the serious concern expressed by the tourism industry of the implications of the threatened withdrawal of Aer Lingus from the Dublin-Galway and Dublin-Kerry air routes; if she has made any representations to Aer Lingus on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21104/00]
I am aware of the concerns expressed by local interests, including the tourism sector, regarding the future of the Dublin-Galway and Dublin-Kerry air routes. Indeed, I have received numerous representations on behalf of both counties and I recently met with a large delegation from the Kerry Access Group on the matter, including a cross-party group of Deputies and Senators.
The invitation to interested airlines to tender for the public service obligation, PSO, routes linking Kerry and Galway with Dublin was published in the EU Official Journal by the European Commission on 16 September and the closing date for submission of tenders was Tuesday of this week, 17 October.
Under the EU regulation which governs the operation of the PSO regime, member states are required to re-tender for air services at least every three years. The current contracts with Aer Lingus in respect of the Galway and Kerry PSOs expire in January of next year.
As this is a formal tendering procedure conducted in accordance with the requirements of the regulation, Deputies will, I am sure, appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to make representations to any particular airline in relation to this matter. The tender process was open to all interested air carriers on a fair and equal basis and it was a matter for the airlines to decide whether or not they wished to participate. As Deputies may be aware, however, Aer Lingus recently announced their intention to submit a tender in respect of the Kerry PSO route.
In all, four airlines, Loganair, Irish Air Transport Limited, Aer Lingus, and Aer Arann submitted tenders covering the six PSO routes which were the subject of the tendering exercise and these will now be evaluated by my Department.
Both the Kerry and Galway PSO routes have been highly successful in building traffic on those routes and they have benefited tourism and business interests in both regions. Because of this success, I decided that the PSO standards governing those two routes should be increased compared to the current operations and I was able to secure the approval of the EU Commission for these increases.
In the case of Galway, I increased the number of daily return flights from three to four while on the Kerry route the number of rotations will be increased from two to three flights each day. I also increased the minimum daily seat capacity to be provided on the Kerry route by 50% to 300 seats, that is, 150 each way. The Galway route already had this level of capacity which is being  maintained. As is the case at present of course, there will be nothing to prevent the air carriers providing extra seating capacity on the routes if circumstances warrant such increases. In addition, I am maintaining the requirement for pressurised aircraft to be used on both of these routes.
I am confident that significant benefits, both for business and tourism interests in Kerry and Galway, will flow from the improved level of access that will pertain when the new services become established early in the New Year.
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