Private Members Motion – Air Travel Tax

March 30th, 2010 - Pat Breen

I congratulate my colleague Deputy Olivia Mitchell for putting forward this Motion here in the House and it is a very timely debate with the Aviation and Tourism Industries in the Country in turmoil.

 

I am currently compiling a report for the Council of Europe on the global, financial and economic crisis confronting the European Civil Aviation Industry.  As part on my ongoing work on this Report, On Friday last in Paris, I met with the CEO of Air France/KLM, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon.  He described Ireland’s decision to introduce this €10 Air Travel Tax in the middle of a recession as a “disaster for the Country, an island Nation, which is so dependant on Air Access.”   He pointed out that Dutch Government moved quickly to axe a similar tax which they introduced in Holland, having witnessed the dramatic affect that it had on their passenger figures, where they lost over 1 million passengers at Schipol Airport on its introduction.

 

The decline in the Shannon Region has been dramatic.   Overseas tourist numbers to the Shannon Region dipped by 27 percent for the first nine months of last year, compared to a 6 percent decrease at Dublin Airport. 

 

When Air Services are axed or capacity reduced it hurts and it is really hurting in my Region.  The Airlines, The Airport itself at Shannon, the Car Hire Companies, Taxi Drivers, one of whom told me recently that he was sitting outside the Terminal Building from 7.00 a.m. in the morning until 3.00p.m. in the day before he got his first run.  Our Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, Publicans, everybody is feeling the pinch.     

Airlines across the globe are axing jobs, Air Lingus is no different.  Many of their workers at Shannon Airport are very fearful for their future, having already made huge sacrifices in their efforts to try and secure the viability of the Airline and there is also uncertainty about the future of their Shannon operations including their maintenance base.

  

 We are now on the verge of losing a significant amount of our Ryanair Business at Shannon Airport.  The arrival of Ryanair at Shannon Airport transformed the Airport, and they delivered passenger growth increasing their passenger numbers from 300,000 in 2004 to 1.9m passengers last year, prior to the introduction in April last of this €10 Air Travel Tax.

 

Several of these routes are very popular holiday destinations and they have been well supported by people in the Region.

 

On top of this, the entire Western Seaboard from Donegal to Cork will have no connectivity to the main administrative centre of the European Union in Brussels; and this will be a disaster for companies in the Region. 

 

This week a report published in the Irish Times, suggests

 that the Dublin Airport Authority is considering introducing a passenger levy for Shannon Departing passengers.  We do not know if this levy is an additional tax, whether it is a proposal to transfer taxes paid by passengers directly to Airlines or if it is simply, another income stream for the Dublin Airport Authority to fund the very costly T2.  Whatever, the case, and a lot of these issues need to be clarified, it is quite clear to me that before any further discussions take place on Airport Charges or on the introduction of any additional levies,  this €10 Air Travel Tax must be abolished. 

 

Three Airlines, Ryanair, Aer Lingus and City Jet have called for this Tax to be abolished.    Michael O’Leary has said he will reinstate routes at Shannon and Dublin Airport, if this Tax is abolished and bring in more people to this Country. The CEO of France told me on Friday last, it will be only be a matter of time, before this tax is abolished, as the loss off revenue for the Airlines, the Airports and Tourism Sectors far outweighs the amount of revenue which is collected from the Tax.    

 

I would say to the Government and to you here tonight, Minister, have the courage to call Michael O’Leary’s Bluff, remember, he won the PR Battle on Hangar 6. 

 

A Wiseman once said that “If you are willing to admit you are wrong! You are right”  I would say to Minister Killeen and I congratulate him on his elevation to Cabinet,  Have the Courage, Minister,  Let Shannon’s Voice be heard at the Cabinet Table, Abolish this tax, it is counterproductive, and give Shannon Airport and the Mid West Region the breathing space it needs to ride out this recession.