Public faith in the board of Shannon Group has been lost and Shannon Airport is at risk of falling behind Knock Airport, elected representatives declared this week.
On foot of Ryanair pulling three services from their 2020 schedule at Shannon Airport while adding four extra routes to Dublin Airport and one from Cork Airport, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) decided to table a motion to Clare County Council seeking action from the board of Shannon Group.
He called on Rose Hynes and the Shannon Group board “to set out a clear pathway to restore Shannon Airport to a consistent pattern of passenger growth for a five year period” which would be forwarded to the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross “for immediate implementation and that Oireachtas Members and councils in the catchment area be appraised of the plans content.”
Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the local authority, Cllr Ryan announced, “The public have lost faith in the Chair and the board of Shannon Group as far as the airport is concerned. There is very poor movement with the Airport. Nothing is being done about a Europe connection if Brexit goes ahead, there is talk about it but nothing is being done. The only person I seem to have faith in is the Acting CEO because she can be seen doing work for Shannon. They have got rid of two CEOs which doesn’t show very well for the Board or the Chairperson”. He acknowledged the positive work done with Shannon Commercial Properties.
Minister Ross’ failure to visit the Mid-West “shows scant regard for Shannon Airport,” the Cratloe man stated. He was adamant action must be taken immediately instead of waiting for Project Ireland 2040. “If we wait for the 2040 plan, Shannon will be gone with the tide. We need to put in as much pressure as we can. 10% of Dublin traffic would create five million passengers for Shannon and make it extremely viable”.
A bus operator in Limerick has recently added three extra buses taking passengers from Limerick to Dublin Airport, Cllr Ryan revealed, “It is a crazy situation because they have an airport on their door step”. He added, “Fáilte Ireland have to be held to account too because it is virtually impossible to find Shannon Airport on their website. We need to act now, the Board and the Chairperson need to do something about it. If they have a plan, they need to tell people about it. Everything happening about the Airport is negative at the moment”. He said that Dublin has a marketing budget of between €11-15m while Shannon “has nothing”.
Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) said, “The ongoing situation is of huge frustration. The Government have no aviation policy. Shannon’s marketing policy is weak, we have twenty four hour landing and take off, we have no restrictions, Dublin does. The vast amount of people going into Dublin have to pay tolls, we have no tolls, there are alternative routes to Shannon Airport”. He suggested getting an aviation expert into the Chamber to “address us on ways to improve the airport,” which he said “is our economic survival”.
Sixmilebridge representative Cllr John Crowe (FG) accused the board of “having their heads in the clouds”. “We’re on about this for the last number of years, all the good ideas have been coming out but nobody has been listening”. He stated that Shannon “has been completely ignored”.
“What we’re going to hear next is Knock overtaking Shannon and we will be completely gone at that stage. The signs are all over Mayo and Galway for Knock Airport, Knock is going to take over the numbers in Shannon next year, they can forget about the MAX grounding, this was only an excuse, the numbers were falling. Unless there is drastic action, Knock will be the leading airport within 12 months,” he added.
An individual outside of the board must “take the bull by the horns and find the solutions for Shannon,” Cllr Michael Begley (IND) commented. “Drastic situations require drastic remedies. I’m not sure if the solutions can be found within the existing boards. If you go into a restaurant and there is nobody there, you’re not going to eat there”.
“If Shannon Airport cannot leverage Wild Atlantic Way as being the pull factor to the Airport, it is ridiculous. One would have to question the competence of the Board,” Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) outlined. “It is ridiculous that an Airport twenty minutes from the Wild Atlantic Way can’t do the business”.
There is “something radically wrong”, Cllr Roisin Garvey (GP) claimed. “Mary Considine said when she was here that they had experts in marketing. I personally think I could do a better job than the people marketing the Airport”. Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) observed, “The political will is not there to give the money to support Shannon. Political will is what we need”. Cllr Pat Daly (FF) criticised the people from Mayo and Galway travelling to Dublin as opposed to flying out of Shannon. Cllr Cathal Crowe (FF) noted that the Copenhagen Report “spells out what has to happen”.