SHANNON Airport is set to record a decrease in its number of passengers this year, unless there is a late improvement.
Figures for the first three-quarters of 2017 show the number of passengers was 5.2% less than for the first three-quarters of 2016.
It is a disappointing state of affairs, almost five years after its separation from the Dublin Airport Authority.
According to the CSO statistics, 1,257,996 passengers were handled by Shannon in the first nine months of the year. This was almost 70,000 below the figure of 1,327,313 for the same period of 2016. It was also lower than the 1,297,080 that travelled through the airport in the first nine months of 2015.
When Shannon was separated from Dublin, its business plan was to have 2.3 million passengers per annum in 2017, a figure the airport is very far away from achieving.
The decline in passenger numbers at Shannon is in marked contrast to the other airports for which figures are available (Dublin, Cork, Knock and Kerry), all of which saw increases for the first nine months.
The third quarter was particularly bad for Shannon, showing a drop of 5.6% on the same three months in 2016. It is an important time of year for airports, with July and August being key holiday months.
Despite the poor figures, Shannon Group CEO Matthew Thomas claimed the airport will finish the year on a par with 2016, 25% up on when it separated from the DAA.
He added, “The CSO figures provided this week do not take account our significant transit business at Shannon, which accounts for 9% of our passenger numbers and which has enjoyed growth of 80% to date thanks to additional frequencies from Kuwait Airways.
“Irish traffic from the UK is down as a result of the fallout from Brexit. With sterling now down about 13% against the euro from where it was prior to the Brexit vote, UK passengers are travelling abroad less. This is reflected in the UK visitor numbers as reported by Tourism Ireland and the CSO.”
Clare TD Timmy Dooley was an opponent of Shannon’s separation from the DAA back in 2013. At this stage, he feels the poor figures prove that the move has not worked.
“In the separation, they cut out the obvious life-support that being connected to Dublin would have provided to them. Unfortunately, they are now on their own and they will have to be creative about finding a way forward.
“What’s concerning is that over the last number of years, all we have had is positive statements from Shannon but it belied what was really happening. What we now need is for the board and the management to get together and try to come up with a plan, to put the airport in a position to attract more passengers and benefit the region,” he stated.
By Owen Ryan