Islanders’ fears for air service in stand-off

Residents on the three Aran Islands are angry and confused – not knowing if they will have an air service come the end of the year.

That’s after Aer Arann issued legal notices that it intends to cease its service to the islands in early December, from the airport in Inverin which they also own.

So as it stands, the Department of the Gaeltacht faces the prospect of not having an air carrier – or an airport – from which to operate come December 6.

And, as the Department has announced that it will proceed with a new tendering process, it does so without an airport from which to operate an island service.

It seems as if both sides are now playing ‘hardball’ with neither Aer Arann nor the Department willing to concede any ground – while islanders say that they are pawns in the whole controversy.

So far, there has been no public comment from Aer Arann owner, Senator Padraic Ó Ceidigh.

Minister Sean Kyne said that it was important to ensure that the contract is renewed – and that the service will operate out of Inverin given that the old Galway Airport in Carnmore is no longer an option.

Islanders are anxious that a service be maintained; they claim that the demand is there but the seat availability is not.

This latest stand-off centres on Aer Arann’s provision of additional flights above and beyond the scheduled flights and their requirement to make a contribution to the Department every time they do this.

For years the air service between the mainland and the three islands has been dogged by uncertainty and scheduling issues.

The latest Aer Arann contract kicked in at the beginning of January 2017 but there has been an issue over the so-called ‘full cost recovery’ over additional flights that are provided from the airport.

Cathy Ní Goill, Manager of Comharchumann Inis Mór said that the current service was far from reliable but insisted that the demand was there.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.