A major breakthrough has been made in securing the future of air travel to the Aran Islands with a deal to help extend services up to 2021.
The Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht has agreed a deal with Aer Arann to use Connemara’s Na Minna airport for air travel services up to September 2021.
Under this agreement extending the current contract, a process has also been set out for the government to negotiate buying the airport completely.
Galway West TD and Minister of State for the Islands Seán Kyne said that a deal has been struck today that will ensure that Aer Arann will continue to run flights to the Aran Islands up to December 20 of this year.
Aer Arann had previously said that it would have to cease all services from next Thursday, December 6.
During this short extension period the Department will issue a Request for Tender for interim service that will run from December 21 of this year until September 30, 2019 while a more permanent operator is sought.
Making the announcement Minister Kyne said that he was pleased an agreement had been reached on the service.
“I welcome the arrangement under which Aerfort na Mine will be available for the air service until 2021. I believe that we have now set out a pathway to ensure the future of this service.
I would like to thank my officials and the Department’s legal team for all their efforts with this process, the island communities for their contribution, patience and understanding and, finally, Aer Arann and its representatives for their efforts to secure this agreement,” he finished.
The owner of Aer Arann Pádraig Ó Céidigh made headlines today with an offer to sell the airline to the island communities for just €1.
Mr Ó Céidigh has said that the current PSO contract of €800,000 a year is unsustainable and the airline is running at a loss.
Negotiations have been ongoing for some time as a deal was desperately sought that wouldn’t leave residents of the Aran Islands cut off from the mainland.