Twenty Five Years since First Flight took off at Waterford Airport
WATERFORD Airport today (July 8) celebrates the twenty fifth year anniversary of the first ever flight to depart from its terminal to London.
July 8, 1985 was an historic day for the small airport in the South East and the dawn of critical international scheduled passenger links between Waterford and London, then through Gatwick Airport.
That historic day also saw Ryanair begin its very first scheduled service from Ireland as operations from Dublin followed in May 1986. The fledgling airline started the London route with a humble 15-seat Embraer Bandeirante. Demand soon exceeded the capacity of this aircraft and the service was upgraded to a 44 seat Hawker Siddley 748 in May 1986. At the same time, the opportunity was taken to switch the service to London-Luton.
London Luton Airport has remained the most successful and convenient destination for Waterford passengers since then with Aer Arann now operating twice and three times daily flights to London Luton from Waterford in addition to services to Manchester, Birmingham and Lorient.
Waterford Airport CEO, Graham Doyle said, “It’s great to celebrate 25 years of passenger services. We’ve been through many trials and tribulations over that time and have since seen the airport go from strength to strength.
Air access is critical to the regional economy and having a strong scheduled service to Luton out of Waterford – as well as other key markets particularly in the UK – has helped foster economic activity in the Southeast. We sincerely thank the hundreds of thousands of people who have used our services over the past 25 years and go forward confident that we can grow services out of Waterford over the coming decades.”
Mr Doyle continued, “Latest statistics show that just over 50% of all bookings originate in the UK meaning that half the passenger loads arriving into Waterford are UK residents holidaying or doing business in the South East. The huge populations and catchment areas surrounding the cities of Manchester, Birmingham and London – all now established routes – create fantastic opportunities for the Southeast as a tourist destination.”
A recent Economic Impact Assessment carried out by London-based Colin Buchanan and Partners shows Waterford Airport supports approximately 560 jobs through direct, indirect and induced effects in the regional economy, according to a major report by a leading firm of UK transport economists. This was before considering the effects of having direct air access on the location and investment decisions of business and multinationals.
It also found that the Waterford Airport is key to the economy of the South East region and it set to play a more vital role in promoting business, tourism and the region's economic development in the future.
Despite the global economic downturn, Waterford Airport is bucking the trend. Total annual international passenger throughput at Waterford increased at a much faster rate than other regional airports over the last four years, even taking into account the economic downturn. The overall decline in UK passengers at Waterford was nine per cent in 2009, substantially less than most other regional airports.
Buchanans carried out a survey of approximately 700 users of Waterford Airport in October 2009. The consultants particularly noted business trips, accounting for one third of passengers, as being particularly high from a regional airport. Many of these travellers are frequent users of the airport, with 12% travelling up to and in excess of 10 times a year. Separately Buchanans noted the exceptionally high response to a survey of individual businesses in the Southeast on the importance of direct access, with 85% from 450 businesses noting that direct air access is important for their particular businesses.
Passengers overwhelmingly choose Waterford Airport for the ease by which the airport can be accessed as their primary reason for using it. This has recently been strengthened by the improved road access and the new River Suir bridge crossing. Other favourable features for passengers are the convenient flight times and uncongested nature of the airport.
The passenger survey suggests that the South East region has developed strong connections with British businesses, with 60% of business travellers coming from UK-based firms mostly in London and South East England but also from other parts of the UK. One fifth of passengers are from US- based firms and just over one-tenth are employed by domestic firms. Swedish businesses account for around half of the 8% of businesses based in Continental Europe represented by survey respondents.
Waterford Airport with Aer Arann operate twice/three times daily flights to London Luton, five times a week return flights to Manchester, four times a week return flights to Birmingham and twice weekly to Lorient plus twice weekly flights to Galway. Further information can be found on www.flywaterford.com