Decision to exit Shannon Heathrow was a “political decision” – the fallout from which continues to reverberate throughout the Region – BREEN.

August 2nd, 2008 - Pat Breen

On the anniversary of one of the blackest August Bank Holiday Weekends for the Aviation and Tourism Sectors in the Mid-West Region, Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen has claimed that the decision to exit the Shannon Heathrow route was a “political decision”, the consequences of which he says “continues to reverberate throughout the Region.” Following an analysis of the traffic patterns undertaken by Deputy Breen when he compared the Shannon Heathrow Service to the Belfast International to Heathrow Service Deputy Breen said that the results “call in to question the Aer Lingus decision to fly away from Shannon abandoning a ready made market of 350,000 in favour of opening services on a Belfast Heathrow route which was showing a strong downward spiral, adding that it leads me to only one conclusion and that is that this decision was a political one and not one made on a sound commercial basis”. Deputy Breen is now urging Aer Lingus to reinstate their Shannon Heathrow Service maintaining that “it is not alone in the best interest of the mid-west region but in the best long-term interest of Aer Lingus.”

“Twelve months on the consequences of the bombshell that was dropped in this Region continues to reverberate. There remains a real sense of betrayal and abandonment by Government who signed the death warrant for the Service supported by our own two local Fianna Deputies Dooley and Killeen when they voted down an Opposition Dail Motion on the 27th September 2007 by one single vote and refused to intervene to save our slots.”

“Sadly, however, it is tourism and business sectors in the mid-west who are suffering from the fall-out of the Governments failure to intervene. Jobs have been haemorrhaging from the Region over the past twelve months, the tourism sector has witnessed a significant drop in bed nights being spent in the Region and substantial additional costs are being borne by businesses as a result of the extra time being wasted having to drive distances to make or take flights. The lack of Heathrow connectivity is now a serious impediment to attracting new foreign direct investment”

“Twelve months later having analysed the traffic patterns on the Shannon to Heathrow Service in comparison to the Belfast International to Heathrow Service it can lead me to only one conclusion that the decision to depart from Shannon was a political one. From my own analysis the traffic load factors out of Belfast to Heathrow do not make for pretty reading. January 42%, February 45%, March 44%, April 46%, May 49%, averaging load factors of 45% for the first five months of the year. (See attached statistics for more in depth analysis.)

“Bearing in mind that the Shannon-Heathrow Service was on an upward spiral when it was axed the opposite is true of the Belfast- Heathrow route which shows a very strong downward trend in passenger numbers since 2003 it is difficult there fore to understand how this decision could have been anything other than “political”.

“I am now urging Aer Lingus to look at reinstating their Shannon Heathrow Service, the market demand for the Service is here, a ready made market of 350,000”

“Reflecting twelve months on all of this uncertainty in this Region could have been avoided if we had not been sacrificed and abandoned by a Government who refused to act to save our slots”.