EU approves €26m in aid for State’s airports

Commission finds support is necessary, appropriate and proportionate

Dublin (pictured), Shannon and Cork airports will benefit from the support. Photograph: iStock

Dublin (pictured), Shannon and Cork airports will benefit from the support. Photograph: iStock

 

Airports will share €26 million in Government compensation for Covid-19 lockdowns after EU officials approved the plan on Wednesday.

Government earmarked €80 million in November to support Irish aviation, left severely damaged by state efforts to contain the virus, subject to the European Commission approving some supports under rules governing state aid.

The commission confirmed that it has approved proposals to pay €26 million compensation to airports for last year’s April to June lockdown.

The aid includes three measures: compensation for damage to airports’ business, up to €1.8 million in grants to each airport and cash to cover fixed costs.

“Under this measure, these operators can be compensated for the net losses suffered during the period between April 1st and June 30th, 2020, as a result of the restrictive measures implemented by the Irish authorities in order to contain the spread of coronavirus,” said the commission.

Tough Government travel restrictions decimated Irish air travel last year. Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport, the Republic’s biggest, fell 25.5 million to about 7.4 million, figures released last week show.

According to the Department of Transport, the Government will allocate the cash on the basis of applications from individual airports.

‘Devastating impact’

The department added that State-owned Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports would share €20 million from the scheme in light of the “devastating impact” of Covid-19 restrictions in their businesses.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said that the aid would allow the three airports to offer incentives and charge rebates to airlines to support the recovery of air travel.

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton noted that the Government would make up to €6 million available to regional airports, Donegal, Kerry and Knock, under the scheme.

EU laws ban state aid for business where it distorts normal commercial competition, but allow for exceptions.

The commission found that the Government aid proposals were necessary, “appropriate and proportionate” to remedy the serious disturbance suffered by the Irish economy as a consequence of Government measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The Government’s overall €80 million offer includes €53.4 million in support for regional airports, Cork, Donegal, Kerry, Knock and Shannon.