Dáil Éireann - Volume 300 - 19 October, 1977

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Air Fares.

10. Mr. O'Donnell asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport whether any recent discussions have taken place with the US Government regarding the introduction of stand-by fares and budget fares on the north Atlantic air routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Faulkner: Standby and budget fares were introduced on the London-New York route in response to the introduction of the Laker Skytrain services on that route. These fares are confined to the London-New York route and there is no present proposal to introduce them on routes to or from Ireland. In the circumstances the question of discussions with the US Government in the matter does not arise.

The scheduled carriers operating north Atlantic routes between Ireland and the United States—and between the UK and the United States—agreed to introduce lower APEX that is, advance purchase excursion fares, to improve their competitiveness with charter services. These fares were initially rejected by the US Civil Aeronautics Board but, following representations to the appropriate US authorities, [757] were approved by President Carter. The reduced APEX fares have accordingly been applied by Aer Lingus or Ireland-US services.

Mr. O'Donnell: Can the Minister say whether, in view of the fact that the whole question of air fare structures on the north Atlantic and other air routes also is of vital importance to the viability of Aer Lingus as well as to the expansion and development of the tourist industry, he would consider taking whatever steps are open to him, either through IATA or at Government level, to ensure the rationalisation of the present crazy air fare structures on these routes? Surely the Minister has some responsibility for ensuring that the air fare structure on the north Atlantic route will operate in such a way as to be of benefit to the Irish tourist industry.

Mr. Faulkner: I should be very glad if I could do that and, in so far as the recent situation with regard to the APEX service is concerned, I was very pleased when these were accepted by President Carter, having been turned down by the Civil Aeronautics Board.

Mr. O'Donnell: May I ask the Minister if he has recently seen a copy of a report issued by the National Tourism Council of a study into this whole question of the relationship between air fare structure and the development of our tourist industry?

Mr. Faulkner: I cannot say that I have seen it but I am aware of the inter-relation between them.

Mr. O'Donnell: Does the Minister propose to take any action based on that most important report with its very practical recommendations which are vital to the whole question of development?

Mr. Faulkner: The Deputy will accept that this is not a one-sided matter.

Mr. O'Donnell: I appreciate that.

Mr. Faulkner: What I would like to do is not necessarily what I would [758] be able to do or what others will agree with.