I thank Deputy Calleary for providing me with the opportunity to speak about the impact of Covid-19 at Ireland West Airport Knock and, in particular, with regard to the decision of Ryanair to reduce its services.
Like all airports, Ireland West Airport Knock has been fully exposed to the intense decline in global aviation activity and, unfortunately, the decline has been further compounded by Ryanair's announcement to cut its winter capacity at the airport. As a key player in delivering high-quality international connectivity to the western region, I am fully aware of the significant impact of this latest news on the airport.
Of course, the decision by Ryanair to cut flights was part of a wider move by the company to cut its capacity on flights right across Europe. This development, therefore, was not entirely unexpected given the low booking rates to the end of this year. The challenges faced by the aviation industry are immense and totally unprecedented in living memory. In that context, I fully appreciate the growing concerns regarding the long-term economic viability of many airports, particularly smaller aviation enterprises like Ireland West Airport Knock.
I want to assure Deputy Calleary, however, that the continued viability of these airports is important to this Government. As the Deputy will be aware, policy on regional airports seeks to optimise conditions for regional development and connectivity both for social and economic benefits. As employers, they contribute to the local economy and employment is also supported through the various ancillary services they provide. This is why this Government took strong and immediate action to assist business and protect employment at the outset of this crisis. A comprehensive suite of generalised supports for all companies has been put in place. These include the wage subsidy schemes, grants, low-cost loans, the waiver of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities.
Ireland West Airport Knock has received a range of supports through these measures. That aside, I am aware that Ireland West Airport Knock is still experiencing an unprecedented strain on its financial resources and has made very difficult decisions to manage that in a responsible way. Where lay-offs have arisen, people have been supported through the Government's pandemic unemployment payment, PUP. Ryanair's announcement can only have made matters worse in that regard and I empathise with all the employees at the airport, both directly and indirectly, who are impacted by this announcement.
Unfortunately, this situation is not unique to any one airport in Ireland or, indeed, internationally at present. I wish to remind the Deputy, however, that Ireland West Airport Knock is one of the airports receiving Exchequer support as part of this Government's regional airports programme. Historically, Ireland West Airport Knock has been well supported through this Government-backed programme. Last year, for example, it received €9.4 million in Exchequer funds. The majority of that funding went towards its runway overlay project. This year to date, Ireland West Airport Knock has received capital support of over €1 million and it is also eligible to apply for operational supports under the programme. My Department recently invited Ireland West Airport Knock, along with Donegal and Kerry airports, to apply for current funding of which a total of €3.5 million is available this year. This funding is typically paid to eligible airports in December of every year. Last December, for example, Ireland West Airport Knock received over €1.7 million in operational supports.
In keeping with this Government's priorities for regional development I am currently finalising a new regional airports programme for 2021 to 2025. This will give funding certainty to Ireland West Airport Knock over a five-year timeframe, helping the airport to remain viable as it transitions through the various phases of Covid-19. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have secured €21.3 million in funding for the programme in 2021.
I wish to advise the Deputy that all support mechanisms for the aviation sector will continue to be reviewed in the context of the Government's plans for international travel, having regard to the recommendations of the aviation task force and the forthcoming national economic plan.