Irish carrier Aer Lingus Regional is to withdraw its base at Waterford airport from the new year, with routes to Manchester, London Luton and London Southend being dropped.
The flights – operated by Aer Arann under a franchise agreement – will cease on January 7.
Waterford airport has expressed “disappointment” at the decision, with CEO Graham Doyle saying:
“We have been aware of Aer Arann’s difficulties since before their examinership in 2010 and continued to work with them through these challenges. Regrettably, however, the airline has limited its capacity on the Waterford routes. This has been due to issues elsewhere in their business rather than the market in the Southeast region with a population of almost 500,000.
“This has seen services reduced on the consistently high-performing London Luton route in favour of Southend Airport, whose owners are now also Aer Arann’s largest shareholder. The Southend route performed poorly by comparison so that even a major marketing push by Waterford Airport and our partners could not fully mitigate this switch.
“It is clearly a blow to have key UK routes withdrawn in these particular circumstances and is especially disappointing given that the Aer Lingus Regional brand was only introduced at Waterford as recently as late March of this year – just over seven months ago. We were delighted to be working with the Aer Lingus brand but our understanding is that the decision arises from the sale of an aircraft by Aer Arann that necessitates them further cutting their route network.”
Doyle added that “no effort is being spared to replace these routes for 2013 and beyond”, and said he was “guardedly optimistic that the business case for operating between Waterford and these important destinations will be attractive to another airline, as proved to be the case when Flybe took up the Birmingham route after it was dropped by Aer Arann”.
Report by Mark Caswell