*Senator Timmy Dooley. Photograph: Natasha Barton
A Clare Senator has suggested that Shannon Airport set up its own airline to put it in greater control of its operations.
Shannon Airport’s initial development led to an expectation that it would be of continued growth, when business capacity was not at desired levels, “the State intervened through Shannon Development and built factories,” Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) recalled.
He believed now was the time for a similar intervention as he suggested Shannon Airport look at having is own airline to serve new routes.
“That is not to suggest that every route can be served. Is there an opportunity for Shannon Airport to set up an airline, a small one initially, with some State capital,” he questioned at a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications. “The big leasing companies have a lot of aeroplanes on their balance sheet, many of which are not being leased. This could be a good time to try something like this. It certainly could be done in conjunction with the leasing companies. They would give favourable rates in the short term”.
Greater control would be at Shannon’s disposal in such a scenario “rather than being at the whim of the airlines, all of which, with the exception of Ryanair, are international and are significantly stretched because of recent losses. It might be time for a small, new, fit-for-purpose airline getting access to relatively cheap aircraft on the international leasing markets”.
Chairperson designate of Shannon Group, Pádraig Ó Céidigh said Dooley’s suggestion was “very interesting and entrepreneurial”. He added, “It is thinking outside the box. It also sets a challenge that is outside the box and is well worth investigating. I know all about setting up and building an airline. It is a huge challenge. It is a different business model from an airport model. Having said that, we would not be the first airport to consider doing something like that. It is worth looking at and doing a feasibility study into the proposal.
“Establishing an airline is a huge task and I am certainly open to looking at the opportunity. I thank Senator Dooley for raising it because it is the kind of thinking we need. It is outside-the-box stuff we need for Shannon,” the former Senator stated.
Ó Céidigh concluded, “The potential of setting up an airline is longer term. It is important to look at it but it is not absolutely urgent here and now. The urgent issue is the Heathrow route and, as members said, getting at least the fundamentals of the transatlantic routes – Boston and New York – on flow. If we can nail that down, we can look at stage two of a strategy and a longer term strategy”.