Micheál Martin has vowed strategic support will be provided for airports and airlines once the EU ‘traffic light’ travel system for the Covid-19 pandemic is operational.
The Taoiseach acknowledged serious concerns from both Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan over the impact the ongoing virus crisis was having on key regional airports such as Cork, Shannon and Ireland West-Knock.
Airports have seen passenger numbers slashed by up to 95pc and the number of routes halved.
Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair have warned they face closing their winter hubs at Cork and Shannon such is the scale of the crisis facing the global aviation sector.
Ireland West-Knock said its passenger numbers would drop back this year to levels not seen since 2001 and warned urgent support by the Government was needed.
The Taoiseach dismissed any suggestion the Government would allow strategic regional connectivity to be lost.
“Firstly, I will say that Covid-19 has been devastating for the travel industry and the aviation sector,” he said.
“There is no doubt about that. Irrespective of regulations and guidance, people have not been travelling at all in the same numbers as they were last year or in the pre-Covid era.
“The Government has to help and support the aviation sector. There has been engagement between the ministers and the sector. We are conscious of that – we are a country that trades globally. We need international connectivity both in terms of indigenous companies and multinationals.
“Our companies export a lot and connectivity is key.”
However, Mr Martin said the Government must wait until EU member states know precisely what was possible in terms of aviation support measures.”We are positively engaging with the European Commission’s proposed ‘traffic light’ system in terms of travel and that, hopefully by mid-October, will be agreed by the EU member states including Ireland,” he said. “That will give some better horizon in terms of the guidance of what it will facilitate and what it will not facilitate.”

Photo: Tom Honan/PA