Time for Kerry Airport to fly solo?

Cantillon: Saudi family representative on board may make State subsidies unnecessary

Kerry Airport: required almost €6.2 million in funding for operational and capital requirements between 2006 and 2016.

It is wonderful for Kerry Airport and its shareholders that a Saudi Arabian billionaire banking family has taken such a n interest in the facility.

Having initially invested in the early 1990s, the bin Mahfouz family have decided its high time they had a member on the board of the company running the airport.

Kerry Airport chairman Denis Cregan confirmed that Sammy Haress had been co-opted on to the board with effect from March 28th. He will represent the interests of Glenmore Capital, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands and represents the original investment in the airport by the late Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz.

It is not clear if the Saudi family are planning to take a greater interest in the day-to-day running of Kerry Airport, or if it is planning any investment in the facility. It might ease the strain on the public purse if they were.


Public service obligation

Between 2006 and 2016, Kerry Airport required almost €6.2 million of State resources for capital and operational investment and that’s not to mention the public service obligation (PSO) contract that ensures that flights run between the airport and Dublin.

This is understandable given Kerry's distance from Dublin, although the fact that Ryanair has seen fit to operate six unsubsidised routes during the summer months arguably lessens Kerry's need for a PSO route.

Regardless, the airport operator and many local groups argue that the PSO service is vital to maintain access to the local economy.

Given the nature of its backers, should the State continue to provide financial support to Kerry Airport?

Passenger numbers rose by 9 per cent last year, so it appears to be doing fine. And it has upgraded its passenger facilities and has a new helicopter facility to service the offshore oil and gas industry, should exploration activity crank up as expected.

It might be time for Kerry Airport to fly solo and tap its wealthy backers for any future investment.