Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (228, 229)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

228. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport the direct supports he plans to put in place for regional and international airports outside Dublin; if he has considered a passenger subsidy, either indirectly by way of airport charges or directly; and the proposals that have been considered. [26580/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

229. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport his plans to progress recommendation 6 of the aviation recovery task force report regarding funding for essential capital projects in line with European Commission rules on state supports to airports in such a way as to ensure airports with fewer than 3 million passengers are deemed eligible for capital expenditure support. [26581/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 229 together.

All airports, including those outside of Dublin, are already benefitting from an extensive range of Government measures during this difficult time. These include wage subsidy schemes, grants, low-cost loans, waiver of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities.

Up to the end of August, the regional airports of Cork, Donegal, Ireland West, Kerry and Shannon Group (including Shannon Airport) had collectively received, or were in the process of applying for horizontal supports to a value of approx €6.5 million.

The smaller of these airports, those that typically handle less than 1 million passengers, are also receiving €6m in Exchequer grants this year from Current and Capital Schemes under the existing Regional Airports Programme.

In addition to the grant aid, regional connectivity continues to be subsidised through Government funded PSO air services between Dublin and the airports of Donegal and Kerry. Over €7m is being provided to support this service in 2020.

A new Regional Airports Programme for a five year period starting in 2021 is also being finalised. This will help eligible airports remain viable as they begin to plan for recovery and transition away from the devastation of Covid.

Prior to Covid-19, the State-owned airports of Shannon and Cork had more than 1 million passengers. As a result, and because of their commercial status, these airports were never part of the Regional Airports Programme.

While State aid rules do not preclude these airports from receiving capital funding, it has been a matter of national policy to target limited supports at our smallest airports – those that would ordinarily struggle, because of their size, to finance projects/activities that would ensure ongoing compliance with safety and security obligations.

Notwithstanding this, as a result of Covid, an emergency Exchequer contribution of €6.1million was approved for a Hold Baggage Screening project at Shannon Airport in June this year.

In relation to any future support mechanisms for the aviation sector, my Department will continue to work closely with aviation stakeholders and continue to review options in the context of the Government’s plans for international travel, having regard to the recommendations of the Aviation Taskforce.

I cannot give specific commitments at this time because any further supports that may be considered will be part of the ongoing Budget deliberations, and there are many competing demands on the Exchequer. However, I can assure the Deputy that the importance of these airports to the regions is well understood by Government.