Dáil Éireann - Volume 300 - 19 October, 1977

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Charter Air Companies.

11. Mr. O'Donnell asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport his Department's present policy regarding the granting of licences to charter air companies operating from the U.S. to this country; and whether he proposes to make any changes in that policy.

Mr. Faulkner: As I indicated in reply to a separate question today, the Government are placing increased emphasis on the importance of tourism and the contribution it can make to economic development. North America is one of our major tourist markets and has considerable growth potential. The availability of adequate capacity on transatlantic services is an important consideration in promoting increased tourist traffic from North America and in that context it is essential that the capacity on charter services, which are mainly seasonal, should match fully the demand for such services. The year-round transatlantic scheduled services are also essential for tourist development and for trade, commerce and communications generally and I am resolved that regular scheduled services must be maintained between Ireland and the US. In these circumstances my policy is—and will continue to be—to allow the maximum opportunity for charter operations consistent with maintaining the viability of year-round scheduled services.

Mr. O'Donnell: This question raises again some of the issues we have discussed on the previous question. Could I ask the Minister if he is aware of the vast expansion in the growth of charter traffic and the contribution this has made to the development of tourism? On the other hand, is it not a fact that the Minister is faced with a dilemma in that the growth of charter traffic could affect the national airlines? Could I suggest to the Minister that it is worth exploring the possibility of airlines following the example of other major international airlines in [759] setting up a subsidiary charter company?

Mr. Faulkner: I would agree that there is a problem here and the whole difficulty is to strike a balance. The charter flights and scheduled flights should complement each other. There are certain difficulties in relation to what the Deputy has mentioned but I will consider it.

Mr. O'Donnell: Is the Minister saying that he is aware of the fact that because of the rapid growth in charter traffic there is a challenge here to Aer Lingus and this presents Aer Lingus with new possibilities? They should go after this charter traffic and one of the ways I am suggesting is by means of setting up a subsidiary company. I ask the Minister to look into it.

Mr. Faulkner: I am aware of the fact that there is a problem and, as I pointed out, one of my main objectives must be to maintain the scheduled services. At the same time, I have to consider this whole question of charter flights.

Mr. O'Donnell: Would the Minister look into the possibility?

Mr. Faulkner: I will look at it.