Belfast Telegraph

State extends support for flights

Flights from Dublin to Donegal and Kerry have been thrown a two-year lifeline as the Government confirmed it will extend State aid to both services.

There were fears locally over the future of the internal routes with the contract for a public service obligation (PSO) subvention ending in the New Year.

The entire bill for both services is picked up by the taxpayer, at a cost of 22 million euro over the past three years.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said Stobart Air - previously Aer Arann - would take over the regional routes from next February.

The small airline has previously operated the Kerry service, while the Donegal flights were run by Loganair.

"Donegal and Kerry Airports are the most remote of the regional airport network from Dublin and continuation of the PSO air services promotes balanced regional development for those areas," said a spokeswoman for the minister.

"Regional airports are viewed as being important because of the level of international connectivity that they bring to a region for tourism and business.

"That connectivity is seen as being a significant contributory factor underpinning Ireland's economic recovery and sustainable development into the future."

A European Union-wide tender process for the routes was started earlier this year.

Their continuation was uncertain ahead of receiving expressions of interests for the services, according to the Department of Transport.

The new 100% subsidised contracts will run from February to January 31 2017.

The deals could be extended for a maximum of one year to 2018, subject to a review of their operation.

Under EU rules, the Government is allowed to fund regional air services considered essential to economic development if they are not commercially viable.

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