Breen questions wisdom of bolstering traffic into Dublin Airport when spare capacity and huge challenges are facing Shannon Airport.

January 21st, 2010 - Pat Breen

Welcoming the news that Continental Airlines are to expand their Summer Schedule to Newark, from Shannon Airport, Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen claims that the availability of US Pre Clearance facilities at Shannon was key to Continental’s decision, adding that their commitment to Shannon Airport is in stark contrast to our own National Airline Aer Lingus, who have failed to sign up to use the facility. Deputy Breen claims that in the vacuum created by Aer Lingus continuing to leave Shannon Airport dangling regarding the future of their Shannon operation, other Airlines are capitalising at their expense. Deputy Breen has questioned the wisdom of bolstering traffic into Dublin Airport at a time when there is spare capacity and huge challenges facing Shannon International Airport.

“News that Continental Airlines is adding an additional service from Shannon Airport four times weekly during the months of June, July and August is a vote of confidence by the Airline in Shannon and the Region. Since Continental Airlines first inaugural flight landed in Shannon in 1998, they have developed an all year round Service from this Region serving Newark which is a major hub, handling over 30 million passengers and serving over 165 destinations in the United States and Canada.”

“I would like to thank Continental Airlines for their ongoing commitment to Shannon Airport especially at this very difficult time for the Aviation Industry. Consumers will now have a real choice on travel from this Region to New York and I believe that the availability of US Pre Clearance facilities the Airport was pivotal to Continental’s decision to expand their services.”

“In the vacuum created by Aer Lingus continuing to leave the Airport dangling regarding the future of their transatlantic services from Shannon, other Airlines like Continental Airlines are capitalising and increasing their market share of business from this Region to New York. Continental can offer passengers a much more pleasant travel experience on arrival in the United States compared to Aer Lingus Shannon departing passengers who have to endure lengthy queues of up to four hours on arrival in the US as a direct result of Aer Lingus failure to sign up to use the US Pre Clearance facility in Shannon.”

“There is no denying that Aer Lingus is in a precarious situation and the consequences of the world slump in Aviation has seen a slump in International Passenger Traffic, particularly on long-haul services, however, Continental Airlines decision to increase services at this time is a vote of confidence for Shannon that even at this time of economic recession there are opportunities out there which can be exploited.”

“In that context, I have the question the wisdom of bolstering traffic through Dublin Airport at this time, which I believe will be at the expense of Shannon Airport. This week, the DAA will meet with 39 Airlines serving Dublin Airport to outline their new route incentive scheme. According to media reports, this new Scheme is to incentivise Ryanair and Aer Lingus, to fly into cities in Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain not currently connected to Dublin.”

“2010, will be a very difficult and challenging year for Shannon Airport. The Airport is facing a real test in terms of trying to replace European Services being abandoned by Ryanair following the irretrievable breakdown in talks between the Airline and SAA prior to Christmas and the uncertainty regarding Aer Lingus plans for their Shannon operation.”

“The policy adopted over the past twenty years of promoting more and more business into Dublin Airport while there is spare capacity available at Shannon Airport, in my view is seriously flawed. In the aftermath of the introduction of Open Skies, as predicted by the Dukes/Sorreson Report it is clear that an ever increasing number of new routes and airlines are being encouraged to fly direct into Dublin and the suspicion among many here in the Mid-West is that it is being made more attractive for them to do so by either direct or indirect marketing ploys.”

“I want to see this new route incentive scheme extended to Shannon Airport and furthermore,what I would like to see is an even better and more innovative scheme put forward to encourage business development at our local Airport. In response to the controversial decision by Aer Lingus to axe their Shannon Heathrow Service three years ago, the Government commissioned a Group of Senior Officials to report on the implications of the decision at the time for Shannon Airport. That report highlighted the importance of connectivity to Mainland Europe, adding that “there are a number of excellent opportunities to increase visitor numbers to Shannon” and that “The aim will be to increase marketing activity in three catchment areas in Belgium, Germany and France.”

“Following the decision by Ryanair not to enter a new agreement with the SAA, there is a window of opportunity now for Aer Lingus to expand their operation at Shannon and rebuild their relationship with the Mid-West Region. The welcome return and expansion of their Shannon/Heathrow Service with the Airline committing to basing an Aircraft at the Airport is an ideal opportunity for them to open new routes to various European destinations. The fact that they are basing an Aircraft at Shannon and reducing their services at Gatwick means that they have the Aircraft available to operate the routes.”

“It is an opportune time now for the Airport to come up with new and innovative proposals to bolster passenger numbers and the DAA cannot be allowed to continue to develop Dublin Airport at Shannon’s expense. The Government also have a role to play and in the face of declining tourism visitor figures, the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism Martin Cullen, cannot leave the Airport to fly solo, he must provide additional marketing support for any new routes which may come on stream this year, so that targeted campaigns can get underway immediately in any new European
Destinations which may be served from Shannon.”