Varadkar initiates consultation process for aviation sector

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• Safety re-affirmed as No.1 priority
• Growing new routes & services including ‘fifth freedom’ rights
• Developing Irish airports
• Expanding aircraft leasing and finance

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar has published a draft National Aviation Policy and launched a consultation process on the document, which aims to develop new routes and services into Ireland and build on the success of the last two years.

The draft policy aims to support the growth of Ireland’s aviation sector which is worth €4.1 billion annually to Irish GDP. It supports 26,000 direct jobs and 16,000 in the supply chain. At least 26 new routes into Ireland were confirmed over the last 12 months, and the draft policy aims to continue developing the sector over the next 20 year period.

“One of my priorities as Minister for Transport is to ensure that the aviation sector achieves its potential, for the benefit of the aviation industry and for the wider economy. That’s why I am developing the first aviation framework policy in more than two decades,” Minister Varadkar said.

“Aviation is about much more than just airports and airlines. It’s also about aviation finance, repairs, maintenance, education, and a lot more besides. The Government’s role is to ensure that the right conditions exist for a flourishing industry. We want to remove any remaining barriers to growth and competition. We want to facilitate the further expansion of the aviation industry, make it more competitive, stimulate growth at all our airports and develop new airline links into Ireland. We will also address environmental issues.

“This draft policy paper published today provides stakeholders with an opportunity to contribute before the finished policy is published later this year. That final policy paper will provide certainty to the industry and to investors about the Government’s own aviation policies for the next 20 years.”

Priorities in the draft policy include:

• Maintaining Ireland’s leading position in aircraft leasing and aviation finance;
• Re-affirming safety as the top priority and ensuring that safety regulation is robust, effective and efficient;
• Developing new routes and services, particularly to new and emerging markets;
• Taking a liberal approach to fifth freedoms in order to encourage more airlines into Ireland;
• Ensuring a high level of competition among airlines operating in the Irish market;
• Supporting the development of Ireland’s airports, including the development of Dublin airport as a secondary hub airport for transit to the US for passengers from the UK and across the EU;
• Given the important role that regional airports play, the development of a framework of State support for regional airports including Ireland West Airport Knock for implementation from 2015 onwards;
• The retention by the State, in the short term, of its shareholding in Aer Lingus and seeking to maximise its value. The State remains open to the sale of its stake when conditions are right and if the right price and terms can be agreed;
• Encouraging research & development in Ireland of clean engine technologies and sustainable fuels;
• Developing a business case to designate Shannon Airport as an aero-industrial hub, particularly as a European gateway to the US in association with the International Aviation Services Centre;
• Mandating Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports to carry out reviews of capacity constraints and infrastructure needs at five yearly intervals starting in 2015;
• Supporting the roles of Shannon and Cork airports as key tourism and business gateways to their regions;
• The organisation of PSO competitions for Donegal-Dublin and Kerry-Dublin services in 2015.

The draft National Aviation Policy takes account of submissions received to an Issues Paper published in March 2013. The consultation process provides interested parties with a further opportunity to shape the future of Irish aviation policy before the final report is published. The draft Policy can be accessed here. Submissions are invited by 31st July 2014.