The Department of Transport will launch an emergency procurement process this week with a view to restoring air services linking Dublin with Donegal and Kerry Airports as quickly as possible.
Ministers Ryan and Naughton briefed the cabinet on the plans this morning.
The Department will issue a request for quotes directly to airlines in the coming days, in accordance with applicable EU rules on air service Public Service Obligations, and taking account of legal advice.
It is anticipated that the emergency procurement process will be completed by early July, with a view to services being restarted by the new operator(s) as soon as possible thereafter.
The contract will be subject to a maximum term of 7 months and will operate in accordance with EU law.
In tandem, the Department will launch a procurement process for a maximum of 4 years for the continued provision of the services, which will apply after the temporary contract has expired. This will mitigate against any disruption to these services once the emergency contract expires.
The Department said it recognises the importance of restoring regional connectivity to these airports in advance of the reopening of international travel on 19 July and continues to engage closely with aviation stakeholders in this regard.
Commenting on the decision, Minister Charlie McConalogue said “Donegal Airport is a connectivty link for the people of Donegal for medical reasons, for job creation, for business and for tourism. Since the announcement by Stobart Air at the weekend, I have outlined the importance of reaching a solution to my colleagues Ministers Ryan and Naughton.
“The decision taken this morning is an important one for the people of Donegal will provide some clarity for people who need this service.”
“I thank Ministers Ryan and Naughton for their swift response to rectify the issue” concluded the Minister.
Throughout the COVID-19, the Government has made significant funding available to the Irish aviation industry through a range of business supports.
The bulk of the support to airlines is through the TWSS/EWSS wage subsidy schemes which were specifically designed to maintain the link between employers and employees. It is estimated that by end-June 2021, the sector will have received approximately €300 million in such supports.
In addition, liquidity support has also been made available to the aviation industry through the ISIF Pandemic Stabilisation Fund. Aer Lingus has already secured a €150m loan under this fund.
As well as economy-wide measures, the Government is also implementing an €80 million funding package specifically for Irish aviation. In addition to €21m for the Regional Airports Programme in 2021, a further allocation of up to €6m is being made available to regional airports under a State-aid compliant Scheme in 2021.
This is in recognition of the impact of COVID-19 on our smallest airports and Donegal and Kerry (and Knock) airports are eligible for funding under this Scheme. The Department is currently assessing applications for funding under this €6m measure and the Minister intends to grant aid in the coming weeks.