New methods of thinking need to be applied when it comes to fighting the cause for Shannon Airport but one of the country’s most respected travel journalists has insisted there is no need to alter the management of Shannon Group.
As aviation begins to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of COVID-19, there is an opportunity to flip the argument when it comes to fighting for better resources for Shannon Airport, Irish travel writer Eoghan Corry outlined.
Profits may not return to Shannon Airport for some time, he warned. “It’s pretty much a shattered industry and what we would expect to happen is that in the aftermath of what they have been through they will look at the routes which generate the most revenue and the least risk, that is the challenge facing Shannon because the peripherality and the seasonality of it means that it is not going to be generating big profits. It will be carrying the risk of a short season, if COVID-19 had happened in November and ended in March it wouldn’t have had as big an impact as it did”.
COVID-19 should bring an end to an argument of airports in Ireland acting as a counter-balance to each other, Eoghan whose father Patrick hailed from Cooraclare and mother Anne was a native of Miltown Malbay stated. “We sometimes get obsessed that Shannon has a perennial fight for its existence down the years, every single regional airport in Europe is facing similar fights, it is important that the decisions not be left purely on a profit and loss basis and that people say this is important for the region. Very often with the smaller investment in Shannon you can get a better return than you would in a bigger airport”.
“What we will probably see as the post COVID-19 Shannon situation is presented is what impact each euro invested will have on the region and how sustainable it is, I think we will have to see an end to the old argument which was basically seeing Shannon as some sort of counter-balance to the rest of the country with Dublin versus Shannon or Cork versus Shannon, Knock or Kerry versus Shannon which is what a lot of the old arguments were, we’ve to work out how big a resource Shannon is, how much money will it cost to deliver serious employment and serious tourism spend in the West, those arguments have to be presented in a new way which abandons an awful lot of the local lobbying which went before”.
Should such thinking be applied, the man regarded as the most extensively travel writer from Ireland is of the view that it would benefit Shannon. “I think Shannon would come out well in a lot of those arguments compared with some of the regional airports in the rest of Europe because of the three huge advantages it has”. He listed the short-haul flight from the United States, its infrastructure in being able to land aircraft such as the Antonov and its location in the West of Ireland as its three biggest strengths. “Nobody is really interested in coming to Dublin and spending a couple of hours on a motorway getting to where they want to go”.
While it has advantages, Eoghan highlighted that Shannon Airport was “haunted” by being “a one-way airport because the Limerick and Galway population isn’t big enough to make it a player in aviation terms”. He also cited the seasonality of the international airport due to its reliance on the American market as another concern.
Frustration has been voiced with the performance of Shannon Airport’s management. The Kildare man disagreed with calls for the resignation of Rose Hynes at this time. “I think blaming Rose Hynes for what the policy decisions they have had is unfair and counter-productive at a crucial time in the airport’s history”.
Management have attempted to build up city to city air services to bring in a feeder service from big European cities due to the smaller population of Mid-West counties. Such efforts came undone as “the days when you transfer people within Ireland are gone because it is seen as one small region. If you get into the game that you are offering an alternative transfer from Heathrow or Charles de Gauille, they will always pick Shannon, that is the new strategy they were working on but they didn’t succeed with it, I don’t think it’s over as a game because the way technology is moving with the viability of smaller aircraft services it won’t change with COVID-19 and it is still a player”.
He also cited their work in trying to incentivise transatlantic carriers to bring new routes to Shannon, which is dependent on service demand. “The real problem is a lot of what Shannon wanted to do and was doing was winning the likes of the 757, Shannon lost the United route not because it wasn’t viable but because they were retiring the aircraft, when 757s and 767s get retired that is where the job is going to be, they will need to be able to get airlines to move small aircraft. It is all still to play for but what the Shannon Board were doing wasn’t unviable, it was quite a sensitive strategy but it just didn’t work and it doesn’t mean they should stop trying because it was a difficult battle to win in the first place”.