I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting my matter. The Minister of State is welcome to the House. As we emerge into a post-Covid-19 world, a traffic reinstatement support scheme for our airports is important, as is aviation recovery. Route development, reinstatement and retention is what I am referring to and, in particular, the need for financial supports to be given to our airports and to be used to attract new business.
I make no apology for being an advocate for not only Cork Airport, but all our airports. Prior to Covid, Cork was the second fastest growing airport in the country. It was growing faster than Dublin Airport, as the passenger data will show.
The Minister of State is from the west of and knows that connectivity is important. It is important for the external aviation sector. It is pivotal to our tourism industry and to balanced regional development. Our national broadband plan is being unfurled, which highlights the importance of connectivity to our regions.
As travel and transport return to normal, it is important that the Government sets out its stall to implement measures to restore confidence in air travel to encourage people to come into Ireland. Central to that is that we show we are open for business and that potential visitors can visit Ireland with confidence. Linked to that, we should, in the forthcoming budget and on an ongoing basis, offer financial assistance in the form of a rebate of airport charges. I acknowledge that airport relief in continuing at local level. We also need route incentivisation schemes and regional airport supports. In fairness, the industry will recognise the supports that the Government has given. All of us in this House and the Lower House should acknowledge that the Government has been quick to support our aviation sector through a multiplicity of schemes. I very much welcome that. The aviation sector supports what the Minister of State has been doing. It is important that the capital expenditure and operating expenses supports for the regional airports in Cork and Shannon continue.
The reinstatement support scheme for next year is important. Aer Lingus has yet to announce its winter schedule, which runs from October to April. Aer Lingus is our country's primary carrier. In the context of the plan for the future, it is important that we give certainty.
I also raise the issue of Emerald Airlines. The Minister of State has been involved in discussions with the company. It is important for that company to get off to a good start. I say that in the context of Cork Airport, from where Emerald Airlines has a regional franchise to parts of the provincial UK. I wish the company well.
We need to give them supports and put in place that financial truncated support to ensure reinstatement of routes and route retention, as we saw last week with Ryanair and Cork Airport and as we saw with Shannon Airport. I appreciate that the Minister of State, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, is doing her level best but it is important in the context of what we are doing as a country around connectivity and route development, that Government continues to support our aviation sector. This is about Ireland being open for business. Our aviation sector is critical to tourism and jobs.
I look forward to the Minister of State's response and thank her for the work she has been doing so far in her tenure.