Waterford Airport is understood to have engaged in preliminary discussions with Ryanair following the announcement that up to €30m is to be invested in a runway extension.
A joint private investment of €12m is to clear the skies for the much-anticipated return of commercial flights in and out of Waterford Airport for the first time in seven years.
The joint investment is being made by Comer Group International and existing investors Bolster Group could see flights to the UK in general resuming by the end of next year. Any deal with Ryanair would likely be some time away.
A business plan is to be submitted to the Department of Transport this week, in a bid to secure matching funding. Local authorities Waterford City and County Council along with Kilkenny County Council are also expected to provide funding. The total amount of funding could top €30m. The Government has yet to make a decision on whether it will provide funding.
The new runway will have the capacity to service large and mid-range airliners, such as the widely-used Airbus 320 and Boeing 737, 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 made the announcement in Waterford last Friday. Minister McGrath said that an extension to the runway would make the southeast an “increasingly attractive destination for both leisure and business travellers and similarly, it will make it easier for people across the region to travel internationally.”
Minister McGrath pointed out that the multimillion investment 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.
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 €150m extension of the runway would be funded by the Department of Transport.
Last year, planning permission was granted for a runway extension and associated works, but private sector investment had been slow in arriving.
Speaking on WLRFM, the main shareholder at Waterford Airport William Bolster outlined the current situation.
“We have no control over airlines”, said Mr Bolster. “We’re only the airport, the infrastructure – which is very important. I’ve had discussions with Ryanair and the top airlines in the country. In fairness, Ryanair has said that once we deliver the runway – they’ll happily talk to us.”
Mr Bolster revealed that they are also in discussions with other airlines as well as Ryanair and that Waterford Airport attracted a wealth of interest from private investors before a deal was struck with the Comer Brothers.
“You can’t ignore another successful company like Ryanair coming into Waterford. Only last week, I had a discussion with a new start-up airline, the future of aviation is regional,” he added.