As the Deputy is aware, the current Public Service Obligation (PSO) air services Scheme, which includes the Kerry-Dublin route, ends in November this year. In the context of the significance of the PSO route to the airport, just over 10% of all passengers using the airport last year travelled on the Kerry-Dublin route. The policy on regional airports post 2014 is currently being developed in my Department. This policy will reflect the recommendations arising out of the recently published IWA Knock Study Group, which are being incorporated into the draft National Aviation Policy and must also comply with the revised EU Guidelines on State-Aid, which were adopted by the Commission on 20 February 2014.
No decisions have yet been made in respect of future PSO supports for the Kerry-Dublin or any other route at this stage. It is intended that a PSO tender competition for the Donegal/Dublin and Kerry/Dublin routes will be organised for 2015. As the Deputy appreciates, my Department cannot write a blank cheque and the final decision on whether or not to maintain PSO supports will only be taken when the outcome of the tender process is known.
There is only a limited budget of some €12m per annum available for the Regional Airports Programme post 2014, with an average cost per annum for the two PSO routes from Kerry and Donegal of over €7.5m, based on existing figures. Best use of that limited budget must be made in the context of maintaining and developing the four regional airports – Donegal, IWA Knock, Kerry and Waterford.