Tuesday, 12 March 2019
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Air Services Provision
563. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps he is taking to assist Shannon Airport improve access after Brexit when its current hub, Heathrow Airport, will no longer be in the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11685/19]
I refer to my response to a similar parliamentary question from the Deputy of 4 December 2018 on this subject. In that response, I explained that the establishment of air transport connections are the result of commercial agreements between airlines and airports and that as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have no function in these commercial decisions.
Engagement between my Department and aviation stakeholders has continued in the months since the Deputy raised this matter previously, and my officials and I have continued to reiterate the importance of the aviation industry, including airports, taking steps to prepare and where possible to reduce their exposure and to limit reliance on any one particular destination or service.
As the Deputy will be aware, the European Commission last year put forward a draft legislative proposal aimed at ensuring basic air connectivity in a no deal scenario. The measures proposed will, subject to reciprocity, provide a large degree of certainty to the Irish aviation sector and to the travelling public. The situation was further clarified on 7 March, when the United Kingdom confirmed its intention to reciprocate the proposed measures. While this cannot mitigate the overall impact of a no-deal scenario, or the assurances contained in the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement, the fears that aircraft might not be able to fly are being addressed.
Government also supports the development of air connectivity and the expansion of air services more generally through funding from Tourism Ireland for cooperative marketing activity. Cooperative campaigns with partners facilitate increased marketing effort and help promote the destination more widely. An increased budget allocation in Tourism Ireland for 2019 will continue to support both seasonal and regional growth and will be underscored by a commitment to focus co-operative partnership activities on the January-April and October-December periods for Great Britain and the North American and European markets. I would encourage all airports to avail of this funding to optimise air services, including Shannon Airport with regard to alternative European hub connections.