A joint €12 million private investment will facilitate the return of commercial flights at Waterford Airport for the first time in seven years. The money will be used primarily to extend the runway.
The investment is being made by Comer Group International and existing investors Bolster Group and could mean flights resuming by the end of next year to the UK. The billionaire Galway brothers Luke and Brian Comer own Comer Group International
A business plan is to be submitted to the Department of Transport, in a bid to secure matching funding. Local authorities Waterford City and County Councils along with Kilkenny County Council are also expected to provide funding. The total amount of funding could top €30 million.
The extended runway will have the capacity to service large and mid-range airliners, such as the widely-used Airbus 320 and Boeing 737, and backers hope to see Waterford Airport linking up with summer and winter holiday destinations across Europe. London is expected to be the first destination, possibly at the end of next year.
Minister for Finance Michael McGrath and William Bolster, the airport’s chief executive, announced the project in Waterford on Friday. . Mr McGrath said he welcomed additional private investment in Waterford Airport.
“An extension to the runway would make the southeast an increasingly attractive destination for both leisure and business travellers from overseas. Similarly, it will make it easier for people across the region to travel internationally. This has the potential to boost economic growth in the region in the decade ahead and complement significant investment already planned for Waterford including in urban regeneration and the southeast Technological University,” said Mr McGrath.
Waterford Airport has already started project work for a new runway extension. Planning permission was granted for the extension and associated works but private sector investment had been slow in arriving.
The Waterford Airport Board then initiated talks with the Comer brothers to buy a majority stake in the airport. Intensive talks have been ongoing, but have now reached what appears to be a successful conclusion.
In a joint statement Comer Group director Luke Comer and Mr Bolster said: “We are delighted to announce the runway expansion, which will reopen up travel to the UK and European destinations all year round.
“Those local to the area have had to travel to Dublin or Cork to catch flights over the last seven years and the time absolutely felt right to bring the airport back to life with much-needed investment and put Waterford firmly back on the international map.”
Waterford Airport opened in 1981, with Ryanair operating its first scheduled flight four years later. In its final year of commercial flight operations seven years ago, the facility handled 13,511 passengers. The Irish Coast Guard Air and Sea Rescue helicopter is based at the airport.
Ten years ago, it was reported that a €150 million extension of the runway would be funded by the Department of Transport.
Various airlines used the airport, but in June 2016, VLM ended its London/Luton service, leaving Waterford Airport since then without any scheduled traffic.