Knock Airport's Passenger
Irish Times - Friday Aug
by Theresa Judge
It may not be what Msgr Horan had in mind when he fought
to get Knock Airport, Co Mayo, built in the 1980s but
foreign sun holidays to such exotic locations as the
Caribbean and South Africa have become a major part of the
Overall passenger numbers have increased dramatically in
recent years from 200,000 in 2002 to an expected 400,000
this year, but the number taking charter flights has
increased more than tenfold in the same period.
"We expect charter flight passenger numbers to reach at
least 25,000 this year. It is a huge growth area for us,"
according to airport chief executive Liam Scollan. The
airport now has flights to 25 different destinations and
while sun holiday locations change depending on the time of
the year, these include Alicante, Malaga, Majorca,
Lanzarote, Cyprus and Cadiz. Pilgrimage tours to Lourdes,
Fatima, and Medujorje are also offered.
But more recent additions include tours to South Africa
and skiing holidays in Andorra, and weekend breaks in Prague
are also planned. Scollan expects this growth to continue
and the aim for 2005 is to start flights to the US. Market
research carried out for the airport indicates demand is
there for 10 additional UK destinations, 11 more sun holiday
destinations and up to nine US destinations.
The big attraction of Knock, it appears, is convenience.
For people in the west a flight from Knock means no long
drive to Dublin, no city traffic to get stuck in, much lower
car-parking charges, and a generally more personal
"People can literally have their lunch in Mayo and be in
Lanzarote in time for evening tea. The most repeated
comment, we get is that it takes the stress out of
travelling. And people are even more grateful when they are
returning at the end of a holiday, when they just want to
get home as quickly as possible," adds Scollan.
Outbound charters this year have generally been more than
90 per cent full and the airport's catchment area has been
increasing with people from as far away as Donegal, Cavan
and Westmeath using it. Regular passengers are quick to
praise the service and the management team, who have
Ballyhaunis Bank of Ireland manager Dave McConn has flown
out of Knock frequently both on personal holidays and in
bringing GAA teams to Britain for matches.
"I know from personal experience and from the people I
meet in business that it is just a given now that you use
Knock if you can at all. People wouldn't dream of using
anywhere else now. The time saving is brilliant - you save
at least half a day on each flight. And they have an
excellent service - it is as professional as you'd get
anywhere but it's also very personal," McConn says.
One of the first people to try to organise tours and
charter flights out of Knock was Paul Claffey, of Mid and
North West Radio. He laughs now remembering how he was told
in the mid-1990s that market research had found that people
wouldn't go on holiday from Knock because tbey wouldn't want
their neighbours to know where they were going.
Over the past four to five years he has proved otherwise.
Working with tour operators, he organises music holidays
which involves bringing performers such as Tommy Fleming and
Paddy Cole on the holiday to provide nightly
He sometimes takes over an entire hotel for the week.
"People who go on sun holidays, who are past the disco
stage, always complain that there's nothing to do after 9
o'clock at night. But the concept of music holidays has
worked remarkably well. There's a bit of fun and craic -
it's like being at a wedding for a week," he says. In the
past he has organised trips to the Caribbean and later this
year has two tours scheduled for South Africa.