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Shannon Group issues State aid plea

SHANNON Airport is to resume passenger services next week, while it has sought a range of supports, as it faces tough new realities.

In a submission made by Shannon Group to the State’s Aviation Recovery Taskforce, it has sought “significant and effective funding” to help restore important routes.

Shannon has also sought a two-year waiver from commercial rates, for the wage subsidy scheme for aviation/tourism to continue until at least March 2021 and a regionally targeted marketing support scheme to challenge Dublin’s dominance.

In addition, Shannon has sought changes to national aviation policy, including a request that the Government designate it Ireland’s dedicated location for commercial transit operations. It has also made a request that consideration be given to providing support to a link between Shannon and a major European hub.

While Shannon is to reopen with a number of Ryanair services next week, Aer Lingus have already temporarily laid off all of their workers at the airport and some of them may face redundancy in the near future.

In the submission, which was made public on Tuesday, Shannon Group stressed the importance of its airport. “Shannon
Airport is the very lifeblood of the region. The air services provided through it are an essential artery for Irish and international businesses located here and its location at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way make it an important gateway for international visitors. Strong regions and regional cities make for a strong national economy.”

It calls for seven immediate actions/supports, which it says are “required to deal with the catastrophic fallout from this pandemic”.

One of the eye-catching requests is for the provision of funding for airlines on condition they restore and expand services.

It says that while the funding would help airlines to deal with losses in the post-Covid recovery period, “it must be conditional on airlines reintroducing 2019 level of services in each of the country’s airports by 2021 and a commitment on minimum growth of 5% per annum in each of the airports until 2024”.

The submission warns that Dublin has become very dominant in Irish aviation and states, “A regionally targeted marketing support scheme will ensure that the excess capacity that is available in airports outside of Dublin is utilised to the fullest extent possible”.

Changes to Irish aviation policy are sought, including a request that Shannon be designated as “Ireland’s dedicated location for commercial transit operations”.

There is a request for incentives to be given for links between Shannon and a European hub airport. “Airline connectivity from Shannon to key hubs in the UK, US and Europe is vital to support business and tourism and, in particular, to recover in the aftermath of this global pandemic and therefore consideration should be given to establishing a PSO (Public Service Obligation) to a major European hub to support the retention and expansion of companies in the Mid-West and provide additional employment for this region.”

It also claims that the environment can be improved by encouraging tourists visiting the Wild Atlantic Way to use Shannon. “Flying directly to an airport located within the region reduces their overall carbon footprint in Ireland, will improve the overall visitor experience and, in turn, grow the overall visitor numbers into the country.”

Summing up, the submission said that, “We in Shannon Group, urgently need the incoming Government to implement the measures set out in this document to not alone alleviate the financial burden on the group and provide assistance, most particularly in the airport but to safeguard this vital infrastructure for the business and tourism sectors in the Mid-West and Atlantic Corridor, who rely heavily on its success.”

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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