O'Leary highlights route of regional problem
RYANAIR boss Michael O'Leary has said he did not believe the country's regional airports could survive without subsidies.
He said that Knock and Sligo airports would have a hard job keeping their public service obligation (PSO) contracts, which subsidise flights to Dublin, because they could no longer be justified.
Mr O'Leary has called for PSO contracts to be awarded to the regional airports and not the airlines.
He said that by awarding the contracts to the airline all it was doing was "funding Aer Arann's losses".
Mr O'Leary was speaking in Tralee yesterday where he also met with local politicians to discuss Ryanair's ending of its PSO contract -- which provides three flights daily from Kerry to Dublin -- from October 31.
"The total quantity of PSO subsidies here is about €17m, of which we get €1.7m and Aer Arann gets the other €15.3m.
"The idea that we give Aer Arann a subsidy of €134 for every passenger on the Knock to Dublin route is nonsense.
"It would be cheaper for us as taxpayers to provide a fleet of limos outside the door of Knock Airport and drive them to Dublin than this nonsense we have at the moment," he said.
Mr O'Leary said he believed there would be another round of PSO contracts awarded in July 2011.
However, he said European rules were getting much tighter and airports such as Knock and Sligo, that were within three hours of Dublin, would lose their PSO contracts because there was no longer "any justification" for them.
The Ryanair boss denied that he was using the row with Transport Minister Noel Dempsey as an excuse to pull out of Kerry altogether.
"I would like to continue three flights a day and not because I like the people of Kerry.
"I do actually care about the pilots and the cabin crew who are based here and I'd like to keep them here.
"But I'm not going to subsidise Noel Dempsey or the Dublin Airport Authority to the tune of €660,000 a year to do it," he said.
Mr O'Leary told members of Kerry County Council he would agree to enter into binding arbitration with the Department of Transport to resolve the impasse on its Kerry to Dublin flight schedule.