Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, has announced the awarding of a new €4.9 million air service contract for the Aran Islands (Oileáin Árainn).
The PSO contract, which came into effect on Tuesday, 7 June, will run for 4 years until 2026, will ensure essential mainland connectivity for the island communities and will significantly boost tourism.
For the first time, the contract ensures the provision of a direct service from the mainland to Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr, which will ensure a faster service for those smaller islands.
The contract with Galway Aviation Services Limited, trading as Aer Arann Islands, follows extensive consultation with island stakeholders and a full procurement process.
Announcing the decision, Minister Humphreys said, “this contract gives certainly to the communities of Oileáin Árainn. It ensures they can continue to avail of a year round, reliable and affordable air service to and from Aerfort Chonamara. And for the first time, we will now have direct flights to Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr – 2 wonderful island communities that are so steeped in history, culture and folklore.”
“This is a fantastic development for these island communities. And it also sends a huge signal out ahead of the summer tourism season. What better way to spend your summer holidays than on Oileáin Árainn or our other offshore islands. This contract ensures we will have regular, direct flights from Aerfort Chonamara – to the benefit of the residents of Oileáin Árainn and tourists alike. Today’s news is further proof of my contract as Minister to implement our ambitious rural development policy ‘Our Rural Future’, which has our islands at its core.”
The contract will provide 68,274 PSO seats annually to the 3 islands and will operate from Aerfort Chonamara, which was purchased by the State in 2019.
The contract will also see the introduction of a flexible scheduling scheme that will allow operator to better respond to local service demands, such as island festivals and events. ‘Ad Hoc’ and ‘Scheduled non-PSO’ flights will also be provided by the operator to meet any demand above the agreed PSO seating allocation.