Shannon Airports Independence must be parked

June 10th, 2008 - Pat Breen

Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen has warned today that “any plans for an independent Shannon Airport must be parked” with a Tourism Crisis raging in the Region. He is demanding an immediate response from Government whom he says “must take responsibility for its part in this crisis”

“It would be foolhardy to proceed now with full independence for Shannon Airport during this changing environment for the tourism and aviation sectors. A lot has changed since the Business Plan for the Airport was formulated last year. The Airline Industry is in crisis with the continuing rising cost of fuel, the weakening dollar and the economic slowdown. The impact of Open Skies is hitting home in this region and our tourism sector is bearing the blunt of the crisis”.

“However, the storm clouds have been gathering over Shannon for some time and this Government must take responsibility for its part in the crisis. The Heathrow debacle when the Government reneged on a previous commitment to safeguard out slots in the region has resulted in the situation where traffic figures on the Shannon London routes for the first quarter of 2008 show a drop of 12,452 passengers a decline of 8% over the same period in 2007. The loss of the Shannon/Heathrow service last year is now a considerable obstacle when attempting to attract new investment to the area as accessibility to markets is a cause for major concern. Buffalo Technology has reported the unfeasibility to serve its marketplace from its location in Shannon as one of the reason for the closure with the loss of 48 jobs this week.”

“The future of all-year round transatlantic services through Shannon is also uncertain with the news that Aer Lingus will reduce their winter transantlantic services this year and there is no doubt that the services at Shannon will be hit hardest by this decision. In 2008 alone the Airport faces a 40% decline in transatlantic services and the recently published report by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation “Shannon Gate Way to the West of Ireland A Short Term Market Perspective warns that “the consensus between carriers and tour operators is that the prospects for the latter half of the year and into early 2009 are bleaker than for the first half of 2008″, I have consistently warned that Airlines will choose the Capital City when determining schedules in a pure Open Skies scenario and yet the Government chose to do nothing to cushion the blow for Shannon.”

“Media reports this week that the extension to the CBP facility at Shannon Airport is further delayed once again highlights this Governments lack of urgency when it comes to our local Airport. The former Minister for Transport Martin Cullen promised that this facility would be up and running at an early date, however, the Government has been dragging their heels the original deadline of the 1st May has passed and the suspicion is that the delay in finalising this Agreement is to allow Dublin Airport to introduce the facility at the same time as Shannon thereby ending any competitive advantage that Shannon might have had.”

“An immediate Government plan of action for the Region is required which must include the following:

  • Park the Independence of Shannon Airport during this changing environment in the Airline and Tourism Industries. Now more than ever any decision on the independence of Shannon Airport should be independently assessed.
  • Allocate increased funding to the Discover Ireland’s West Campaign as a matter of urgency.

 

  • Actively seek an alternative airline to operate on the Shannon Heathrow route.

 

  • Stop the dittering on the extension of the CBP facility at the Airport. Reports this week that this project is further delayed arise suspicion that this Government was never serious about giving Shannon a competitive edge ahead of Dublin Airport.

 

  • Fast track the delivery of broadband to the Region.

 

  • Support the efforts of the Tourism Sector in the Region to improve the competitiveness of our tourism product by investing in a range of projects here in the Mid-West.

 

“The entire industry in crisis and to date there has been a deafening silence from Government, they cannot afford to sit idly by once more while a crisis rages in the tourism sector here in the Mid-West.”