SHANNON Airport Authority chairman, Brian O’Connell said talks on the provision of a Lynxs cargo facility at the airport should be completed soon. He also said the developmentof a cargo facility has the potential to generate up to 5,000 jobs.
Mr O’Connell and airport director, Martin Moroney met with members of the media on Wednesday morning before meeting with business and political interests from the region to outline their strategy for the next five years. A minimum of 2.5 million passengers was identified as a target for the airport to achieve by 2015.
With regard to cargo business, Mr O’Connell said the country hadn’t recognised the potential available. “Ninety per cent of our air freight is brought by road to the UK and to Europe in some cases and air freighted from there. I’m saying today, let’s bring that business home, let’s bring it to Shannon.”
While he declined to give too much away about the talks with Lynxs, he indicated they are going well and said that the company are “very positive and committed” to the project.
“These things require time, confidentiality and due diligence. That is being carried out very professionally and I’m confident it will be completed before long. I’m not going to put a timeframe on it.”
He said Shannon has a great opportunity to emerge as a major cargo hub, while it already has a number of advantages as the airport operates 24/7, has an extremely long runway and large amounts of expertise.
Mr O’Connell claimed there is the potential for a great boost to employment in the region. “At present, there are about 3,000 people currently employed in logistics in the Shannon Region. The creation of a logistics centre at Shannon and the development of a marine transportation hub on the estuary, could potentially lead to the creation of further employment for 5,000 people in logistics and related high-end manufacturing in the wider region over the next 10 to 15 years.”
Mr O’Connell mentioned similar facilities in North Carolina and Alaska, which have resulted in major economic benefits for their regions.
At the briefing, Mr O’Connell outlined Shannon Airport’s strategy for the coming years, which he said had four main elements; passenger connectivity, cargo development, customer experience and commercial viability.
A number of specific targets for passenger numbers to be achieved by 2015 were given. These include 500,000 to North America, 770,000 to London, 400,000 to provincial areas of the UK, 660,000 to Continental Europe, 100,000 domestic and 200,000 transport traffic.
With regard to transatlantic flights, he said the airport had dealt well with the arrival of open skies and that he is hopeful of further success. “I am very glad to report that this market is very strong and we are very confident that we can grow it to 500,000 passengers,” he said.
He pointed out that Shannon has had successes, despite the difficulties being faced. “We have achieved real progress in route development and enhanced airline services this year. And we have definite plans to intensify this drive and build on successes, such as the recent announcement of Aer Lingus’ service to Paris and the provision of enhanced services by two American carriers on the transatlantic route.”
Mr O’Connell said the various stakeholders in the region need to be united. “How are we going to succeed? The key fundamental message is for us to sell the airport; we need all the stakeholders to work with us on selling the airport and the region.”
He was the target of some criticism from Clare County Council members lately, as some complained about a lack of transparency regarding Shannon’s plans to cope with the difficulties it faces. However, Mr O’Connell said strategy needs to be well thought through. “What we have here is something that is solid and can work for the airport,” he said.
Also at the briefing, Mr Moroney told the media there were several myths surrounding Shannon Airport.
Some of these were: that Shannon is finished; that Shannon’s problems would have been solved if Ryanair’s demands had been met; that all Shannon’s problems stemmed from the involvement of the DAA and that “everything would be rosy” if Shannon had an independent structure.
He denied that any of these are true and said that some of the things being said about the airport are “quite damaging” as well as being untrue. With regard to claims that Shannon doesn’t have a future, Mr Moroney said this is absolutely incorrect.
“That is absolutely totally untrue, it has a very bright future,” he concluded.