DUBLIN Airport will soon welcome a Chinese airline to its ranks as talks progress on the opening of new routes.
The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has offered a package to a number of Chinese and Russian airlines which are interested in opening year-round Dublin-Moscow and Dublin-China services, the Irish Independent has learnt.
The deal includes a five-year grace period during which airlines will not have to pay airport charges, according to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar. The minister said these charges are usually in the region of €15 per passenger per flight, a significant cost for airlines. The abolition of travel taxes by Budget 2014 also removes the €3 tax that until recently was charged per passenger carried.
Tourism Ireland is also co-operating with the DAA, and will provide support to the successful airlines.
The new routes are being pushed as part of a wider campaign by the Department of Transport, to ensure the existence of direct flights from Ireland on routes which are strategically important to businesspeople. This resulted in the launch earlier this year of new routes by Aer Lingus, connecting Dublin with San Francisco and Toronto. Starting next April, this will make it easier for Irish companies to trade with partners on the US west coast.
According to the Central Statistics Office, Irish exports to Russia were worth €603m in 2012 – up significantly on the €242.6m worth of goods exported in 2009. Other data shows that trade between Ireland and China was worth about €8bn in 2011 – mostly generated by exports of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and software, and imports from China of textiles and office machinery.
Mr Varadkar confirmed that a Chinese and Russian airline would take on the new routes to Moscow and China, rather than Aer Lingus, despite the fact that the State has a 25pc share in the carrier and said in recent months that it plans to be a "more active" shareholder, pressing it to boost connectivity from Ireland and also to pay a regular dividend.
"Aer Lingus does not have the planes" he said. He added that the airline "could" lease aircraft to fill the routes, but said it was unlikely to happen.
The airlines involved in talks are not yet clear, but Russian carrier S7 is thought to be involved. The airline already operates a seasonal route between Dublin and Moscow.