LAST week saw the Government announce funding of almost €14 million for airports in Donegal, Knock, Kerry and Waterford, but not for Shannon.
It is a situation that has been criticised by Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes, who says the Clare airport is now eligible for supports that others are getting. “If the Government is serious about its promise, in the National Planning Framework, to drive regional economies, it may be timely for them to broaden their support for airports that are vital catalysts for regional growth.
“Shannon Airport suffers from a lack of support around capital expenditure projects and is in the process of investing €20 million in safety and security projects from its own resources.
“This funding would be better invested in securing new routes and services to feed the regional economy.
“However, unlike other regional airports, who recently received Government subsidisation in the order of €14 million for capital expenditure works, Shannon receives no exchequer support despite the fact that under EU rules, as an airport with less than 3 million passengers,it should be able to access such funds,” she claimed.
Minister Shane Ross announced a decision in principle to give Waterford €5 million towards a €12 runway extension, even though the airport currently has no commercial flights and State officials warned against giving the grant.
A sum of €5,761,738 went to Knock under the Department of Transport’s Regional Airports Programme, along with €2,208,911 to Kerry and €884,912 to Donegal.
Last week also saw Norwegian say it won’t run transatlantic services from Shannon for the rest of 2019, disappointing news for tourism in Clare and the wider region.
Ms Downes said the move will take millions of euro out of the Mid-West’s economy. “The decision by Norwegian Airlines to reroute its transatlantic services through Dublin this year, and the associated loss of 120,000 seats for Shannon Airport is a major blow, not just for the Airport, but for the entire Mid-West.
“Whilst this decision has been forced on the airline through the grounding of Boeing Max 737, the associated loss of passengers for Shannon will also take up to €60 million out of the regional economy linked to reduced ancillary spend on car hire, hotels, restaurants and general spend by inbound passengers right along the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Ms Downes called on people to use the airport when possible and for some support to help Shannon maintain European hub connectivity following Brexit.
“A loss of passengers at any level has to be counteracted through buy-in by all stakeholders to the existing 30 routes offered by Shannon Airport and a realisation that, without passengers, there is no airport. People grow routes, not airlines, therefore we call on everyone in the Mid-West to make a decision to ‘fly Shannon’ and promote Shannon at every possible opportunity.
“That is why we also fully support Shannon Airport’s call for route development support to assist them to provide vital EU hub connectivity to support the efforts of businesses in this region to diversify their markets in readiness for Brexit,” added Ms Downes.
Meanwhile, chief executive Matthew Thomas departs Shannon Group this week to take up the position of chief executive officer of the Ports of Jersey. Mary Considine has been appointed acting CEO and a recruitment process to select Mr Thomas’ replacement will now commence.