IRELAND West Airport at Knock, Co. Mayo, has not yet secured a replacement carrier for its trans-Atlantic route that serviced New York and Boston last year via low-cost U.K. airline Flyglobespan. Despite a series of highly publicized setbacks last summer, high numbers of trans-Atlantic travelers demonstrated that there is a clear demand for direct air access between the west of Ireland and the east coast of the U.S. in particular. Last year the Irish airport accommodated 35,000 passengers traveling between May and October on the New York and Boston scheduled routes with Flyglobespan. Even a series of horror stories, including a five-day delayed Flyglobespan flight in late June 2007 at Kennedy Airport, did not dampen the public's enthusiasm for tickets. This year the new EU-US Open Skies agreement, which came into force at the end of March, will enable the airport to compete for direct scheduled flights. This was not the case in 2007 when bilateral agreements prevented direct scheduled flights from the small Mayo airport, requiring Flyglobespan to couple Knock's flights with its U.K. operations.Following the decision by Flyglobespan not to resume flight services for 2008, Knock Airport is currently in discussion with a number of potential carriers who recognize the demand for these services. Orla Gibney, marketing and promotions executive for the airport, told the Irish Voice, "We're approaching other airlines to reestablish the route. As you're aware the demand and the uptake was exceptionally good. We are keen to get another airline back in again."The economic incentives for the region of Ireland that calls tourism its number one source of income are self-evident. The airport estimates that the local tourist industry benefited from a tourism spend of around &3.85 million from the U.S. flight services in the summer of 2007."Currently we're flying to Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, Glasgow, Bristol, Luton, Stanstead and Gatwick - and we operate all our charters as well," said Gibney. "At this stage we don't have a comment about our discussions with a trans-Atlantic carrier, but as soon as we do we'll announce it on our Ireland West website."In a statement the airport said that the re-establishment of trans-Atlantic flights would be vital to the economic benefit of the region, and that the airport would continue to make every effort to advance negotiations to find a long term partner to provide reliable year round flight services as soon as possible.In 2008 Knock Airport's growth has come from the expansion of its U.K. network as well as continued development of its European charter holiday business. Meanwhile Flyglobe-span, the low cost airline based in Scotland, is to appear in court on charges of breaching safety rules on a flight from Knock to New York last summer. The U.K.'s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) served the carrier with three summonses after a probe, and representatives of the airline will appear in court in England on July 2.The CAA is seeking a prosecution for an alleged incident in which a plane operated with faulty pressure ratio gauges. These instruments are critical during take-off and are on a CAA checklist of mandatory requirements. It is also alleged that Flyglobespan failed to file a safety report on the incident, which was later reported by the American aviation regulator.
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