Kerry Dublin flight subsidy to stay

Transport minister Ross says talks on new PSO deal will get underway soon

Simon Brouder

Transport Minister Shane Ross has given a virtual guarantee that the state subsidy for flights between Kerry and Dublin will continue after the current deal ends early next year.

The current Public Service Obligation contract - which sees Stobart Air operate two daily return flights between Kerry Airport and Dublin under the Aer Lingus Regional banner- is due to conclude on January 31 2018.

Quizzed on his plans for the two PSO routes linking Kerry and Donegal with Dublin, Minister Ross indicated that subsidies will likely remain in place on both routes when the current PSO contracts expire.

Minister Ross said a review of both PSO services is required under EU law before a new contract can be put out to tender.

While these reviews will examine the 'justification" for continuing the PSO contracts Minister Ross said his Department's aim is to ensure continuity of the services between Kerry and Donegal and Dublin in 2018.

Minister Ross said staff at the Department of Transport hope to have the review complete by mid 2017 with the tendering process expected to get underway in the second half of the year.

Minister Ross added that there are no plans to introduce PSO contracts on any other regional routes.

The current PSO contract with Stobart Air on the Kerry Dublin route is worth approximately €7.6 million a year.

Under the terms of the contract 80 per cent of seats on the route must be available for a total fare not exceeding €80. Fares on the remaining seats can be set at the carrier's discretion.

Last year 46,340 passengers travelled on the route an increase of almost 2,000 on 2015.