ALREADY struggling, Shannon’s woes were compounded on Wednesday, as it emerged that Ryanair will now have no flights to or from the airport between November 14 and December 12.
With Aer Lingus having pulled its Heathrow service, and transatlantic services not running either, it means Shannon will be without any scheduled passenger services at all for a number of weeks, although it will still be open to service cargo, general aviation, transit business and hangar movements.
It puts Shannon at one of the lowest ebbs in its history and on Wednesday it also emerged that the strategically crucial Heathrow service won’t be returned until April at the earliest.
Reacting to the decision, Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine said, “We are extremely disappointed with the news; it is a further illustration of the devastating impact of the pandemic on the aviation sector. This latest development effectively means we will have no scheduled services at Shannon for a month.”
She said the National Economic Plan due to be published next month needs to provide vital financial support for the ailing sector.
Presenting before this Wednesday’s Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, she also said Shannon needs to access some of the supports that are available to smaller Irish airports. “There is an urgent need for Shannon Airport to be incorporated into the Regional Airports Programme. This would see the airport receive vitally needed operational as well as capital expenditure supports as part of this programme which already provides capital grants and operating subvention to four privately owned regional airports in Ireland — Donegal, Farranfore (Kerry), Ireland West Airport Knock and Waterford but excludes the State’s own airports i.e. Shannon and Cork.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Ryanair blamed a poor State response to the crisis for the decision to pull services at Shannon and other Irish airports apart from Dublin. “Ryanair recently announced its reduced winter schedule, taking capacity down to 40% compared to the prior year. As a result of continuous Government mismanagement and a complete collapse in travel demand, additional cuts regrettably had to be made across our Irish airports.
“From November 14 to December 12 Ryanair will only operate from Dublin Airport in Ireland, but operations will resume on December 13 ahead of the Christmas season to allow Irish families to reunite”.
Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson attended an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Networks meeting on Wednesday and blamed Government for the loss of services.. “Bases have closed due to the Minister’s inaction in adopting a replacement system for the Green List,” he said.
“The closure could have been averted. It is extraordinary that since the last Dail Committee on October 7, neither Minister Ryan or Naughton made any contact with Ireland’s largest airline or made any effort to avert the closure of those two bases and the subsequent job and connectivity losses.”
He also called for a stimulus package to be introduced to help for Shannon, Cork, Knock, Kerry and Donegal airports.
Ms Considine reiterated her call for support for the struggling aviation sector. “As an Island nation, aviation is a crucial part of our economy and therefore our economic recovery. The industry is in a crisis not witnessed in our lifetime. If it is to revive and recover, the aviation sector needs a financial lifeline to resuscitate it.
“In the absence of a vaccine, the new European Traffic Light system presents a glimmer of hope, supported by a common approach to testing. Once testing protocols are agreed we will be ready to roll out testing at the airport and believe it will be an important element in restoring public confidence to travel again.”
Ms Considine also said that the success of Shannon is vital for the west of Ireland and that ongoing support will be required for the next number of years. “Shannon Airport supports not only jobs in the airport, but employment across the broader business and tourism sectors that are so vital to the West of Ireland. In doing so, it delivers on Government’s stated aim of a balanced national economy envisaged under Project Ireland 2040.
“Our business and the wider aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors in particular have weathered many economic storms in the past but never on such a scale. While we will eventually recover from the economic impact of COVID-19, it will undoubtedly take a number of years for activity levels to return to anything like normal and we need collective action now to safeguard this vital industry.
“Shannon is more than an airport. It is a symbol of this region’s progress, evidence of this region’s innovation and when thriving, an example of this region’s success and prosperity. Most importantly it is the hub that connects this region’s people and industry with the world and this will be needed more than ever as we recover from this crisis.”