City of Derry Airport has rejected a call by former Foyle election candidate, David Harding, that the facility, which employs 214 and generates £15.7m a year for the economy, should be shut.
Management have invited Mr. Harding, a Conservative councillor for Coleraine who lost his deposit when he ran on a doomed UCUNF ticket in the 2010 Westminster Election in Derry, to visit the airport.
A CoDA spokesperson said: “The airport is owned by Derry City and Strabane District Council who is fully supportive of the vital connectivity the airport provides.
“An operational subvention of £2.1m is required towards the operating cost of the airport, this has reduced significantly from £3.15m in 2010/11.
“The airport welcomes the opportunity to speak directly to Conservative Councillor, Mr. Harding and would encourage a visit to the airport to learn more about this vital piece of infrastructure for the NW.”
Despite the annual subvention, the airport brings in millions for Derry every year and results in jobs for hundreds of people.
The spokesperson explained: “The airport performs a pivotal role in the economics of the region, generating £15.7m Gross Value Added (GVA) per annum.
“Two hundred and fourteen staff are employed at the airport with seven onsite concessions.
“The airport handles commercial passengers, corporate aviation, general aviation and medical flight services.
“It will also play a significant role in providing convenient air access to golfers for the British Open to be held in Royal Portrush in 2019.
“The future development of the NW region requires direct air access if it is to grow and develop.”
Yesterday, Mr. Harding said: “Figures recently published by the Civil Aviation Authority show that passenger numbers have slumped by 100,000 in the past year - that means the airport has lost over a third of its business in the past year alone”
He said the “taxpayer and ratepayer...spent over £30m building and supporting the airport over the past 30 years” and “it was time for the council to face the reality that the airport is a failure”.
But CoDA said: “In 2017 the airport carried c200k passengers to a range of UK and European destinations as well as acting as a catalyst for inbound business and leisure tourism. The airport expect to carry c220k passengers in 2018.”