Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, the Government has made significant funding available to the Irish aviation industry through a range of business supports. The bulk of the support to airlines is through the temporary wage subsidy scheme, TWSS, and employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, which were specifically designed to maintain the link between employers and employees. It is estimated that by the end of June 2021, the sector will have received approximately €300 million in such supports. Liquidity funding is also available through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund pandemic stabilisation and recovery fund and the DAA and Aer Lingus have both availed of substantial support through this mechanism.
The Government has also committed an €80 million direct funding package for Irish aviation in 2021. A new regional airports programme for the period 2021 to 2025 was published on 4 February.
This programme committed a budget of €21.3 million for this year and will continue to support Ireland’s smallest airports at Knock, Kerry and Donegal. A figure of €11.1 million has been paid out so far through the programme.
By virtue of their size and passenger numbers, Cork and Shannon airports have never been eligible for such funding. In light of the impacts of Covid-19, however, and taking account of the recommendations of the task force for aviation recovery, the Government has also committed to providing Cork and Shannon airports with access to capital and operational supports of €32.1 million in 2021 under a Covid-19 regional airports programme.
The allocation to Shannon Airport, which will support the delivery of a broad range of projects at the airport, is in addition to the €6.1 million already approved for a significant hold baggage screening project for the airport in 2020.
In addition to the projects announced, an application for funding in respect of a runway overlay project at Cork Airport is being assessed. Given the costs involved, this project is subject to appraisal under the public spending code. Pending a satisfactory explanation, I hope to be in a position to formally approve funding of €10 million for the project in the coming weeks.
The Government recognises the importance of regional connectivity and the importance of our regional airports to the regions they serve. It reacted immediately to the sudden announcement by Stobart Air that it was ceasing operations at the weekend. My Department has initiated an emergency procurement process with a view to restoring air services linking Dublin with Donegal and Kerry airports.