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West=On=Track - News

Passenger traffic at Knock Airport soars to 400,000

Irish Independent - Thursday 15th July 2004

by Lorna Reid

THE number of people using Knock airport has skyrocketed in the first six months of this year.

The airport, which is expected to accommodate 400,000 passengers this year, is now offering flights to South Africa, the Caribbean, the major European sunspots, and several UK destinations.

"We are going to expand, and we see ourselves as a major international airport with long haul capacity," said Liam Scollan, chief executive of Knock International.

The airport now offers 25 different direct flights worldwide and has the United States in its sights, Mr Scollan said.

Passenger figures for Knock increased by 55pc to 158,391 in the first six months of this year, with 2,260 passengers accommodated on the busiest day of the year, May 27.

The airport, which was the controversial brainchild of the late Monsignor Patrick Horan, became operational 18 years ago, and aspired to a maximum capacity of 200,000.

Last year the Airport had 250,000 passengers, an increase of 25pc on 2002, and looks set to achieve 400,000 passengers this year.

A new arrivals area in the airport opened two months ago complements the new euro2m departures facility which came into operation earlier this year.

Three new daily routes to Liverpool, Manchester, and Nottingham/ East Midlands began earlier this year and the airport now offers seven daily scheduled flights to and from Dublin, Birmingham, London/Stansted, Manchester, Nottingham/East Midlands, and Liverpool.

Last winter saw the introduction of skiing holidays from Knock to Andorra in partnership with a tour operator, and the airport also offers sun charter flights to Spain, Portugal, and Greece and short break flights to leading European cities.

Knock, which is home to Ireland's premier Marian shrine, also offers charter flights to the leading European shrines of Lourdes, Medjugorje, and Fatima.

Mr Scollan said the company was delighted with the record increase in passenger numbers. The airport's success had been fuelled by the low cost airlines and the Celtic Tiger.

"An airport is really only a glorified waiting room for people arriving and departing and if you provide choice at a competitive price then customers will come," he added.

The airport's progress was revealed as a major drive got under way to put Ireland on the map as a premier business tourism destination.

Over euro1.5m will be spent in the next year in a bid to attract the high spenders who attend conferences and corporate meetings.

Ireland is ranked 36th in the world as a business destination, but the new business forum aims to tap into this lucrative market.

Failte Ireland chief Gillian Bowler said yesterday that the provision of the National Conference Centre would be central to the success of this particular tourism sector.








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