I have just spent a few days in Co Mayo, flying into Ireland West Airport in Knock. I am still not sure why they did not call it Horan International which would make it sound like JFK or Liverpool as well as honour that mad (as in I’m mad I am) Monsignor who put his mind to building an international airport on a raised bog in Co Mayo in the 1980s. I like Mayo, it’s very big and the people there are always friendly without being a caricature of what Irish people west of the Shannon could be like.
The airport is a strange place. Despite being mostly empty following my arrival on Monday night – see picture above – it is actually an international airport. And despite the fact that the flight from Dublin was full and there being precisely zero taxis waiting at the terminal building – it is actually an international airport. The Italian woman I ended up sharing a taxi with was heading for Ballina and had just flown in from Milan only to discover that some dolt in Dublin had placed “Bags: 0” on her boarding pass, thereby leaving her with exactly nothing before she flys back to Milan this morning.
My departure this morning from the same airport, a 5.45 start for a 7.15 flight, making it almost as bad as flying from Dublin, was marred by highway robbery. I paid about €65 for the return flight which is not the real cost but anyway. After you check in for your flight you then move toward the departure door (calling it a gate might leave me open to accusations of anti-Mayo bias) before you get to the door though you have to pay an airport development tax – €10. Paying the tax to the woman at the desk I proceeded to….hold on a minute. An airport development tax paid to a paid employee at a desk?
I have no real problem with paying an airport development tax except that there was absolutely no reason in the wide earthly world why I may have thought the money went straight into Ulick McEvaddy’s pocket. There was no explanation of even pictorial evidence of what this development levy is actually being spent on. I see from the airport’s website that the FAQ page is all about this development fee:
The Development Fee is a fee charged by Ireland West Airport Knock to build appropriate passenger services such as Arrivals, Departures, catering, shopping and car parking. The Development Fee is also used to improve aircraft services such as runway improvements, safety and security systems for safe landing, take-off and efficient management of aircraft.
Which surely makes me an investor in the airport. If I was departing that airport once a week on business, I would be spending c.€500 a year on this development tax. I’d like to see a return on my investment, principally the addition of a large inflatable yellow gorilla on the apron. However, when I got to Dublin airport this morning things really took a turn for the worse. I wanted to avoid the early morning traffic and I was heading to Maynooth via Clonee in Meath. I sat in a new cafe called the Eating Place, or aytin place if you are from Ireland with a coffee – free refills are a good thing – a croissant and some toast.
In front of me are four men with northern English accents. There’s lots of scribbling on notebooks, two pairs of binoculars and a very nervous looking younger man popping up and down from his seat every few minutes. Plane spotters! All the way from Wigan if the shirt of one of the men was to be believed. They were happily ensconced in this place spotting the planes arriving and leaving the airport. By spotting I mean they were taking down the code numbers of the planes, probably their livery details and the type of plane too. Holy cow! These guys actually exist. Are they still there now? Is this a hobby?