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Aer Arann throws lifeline to Kerry airport

A RIVAL airline is poised to begin offering flights between Dublin and Kerry, after Ryanair announced it is dropping the route from early September.

The Irish Independent understands that Aer Arann will shortly be named as the new operator of the subsidised route, providing a lifeline for Kerry's loss-making Farranfore airport.

Ryanair axed its Dublin-Kerry service yesterday after failing in a fresh bid to secure what it has described as a "pointless" subsidised service.

Aer Arann is likely to begin operating the route from November if confirmed as the new contract winner. The Department of Transport said it hopes to make an announcement "shortly".

Management at Cork Airport have meanwhile vowed to secure a new operator for flights between the city and Dublin, after Ryanair also announced that it is terminating its service on that route from October 30.

Ryanair blamed the motorway link between the two cities for making a driving trip of under three hours as attractive as flying.

The budget airline was told last week by the Department of Transport that its bid for a subsidised Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract for the Kerry route wasn unsuccessful.

The successful bidder is understood to be Aer Arann, which previously ran the service between Dublin and Kerry, and is expected to have flights operational on the route by the beginning of November. Ryanair said yesterday that despite axing the Dublin-Kerry service, it will still operate special All Ireland Football Final flights to the capital on September 17, 18 and 19.

And passengers who have booked to travel on the routes after their closure will be refunded.

Tom Randles, president of Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, said the community was in deep shock and disappointment following Ryanair's announcement.

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He said that, despite recent road infrastructure improvements, the journey between Dublin and Kerry can still take up to four hours each way.

Losing the air route would have a significant impact on tourism and business in the area, Mr Randles added.

"The fact remains that we need an air link to the capital in order to sustain business and tourism in the region," he said.

Mr Randles called on the Government to quickly implement an alternative air link to Kerry.

He also demanded an update on the tender evaluation process on the new Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract, which provides subsidies for some regional routes.

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