WHILE Shannon is facing a major drop in service and passenger numbers, Cork Airport is about to gain an advantage as Ryanair and Aer Lingus have announced a combined total of 15 new routes from there.
While Ryanair is culling 15 routes out of Shannon, it has announced seven new ones from Cork for the peak summer season of June, July and August, while an additional aircraft will be based there. The airline has also announced it will be initiating a Knock-Barcelona service.
Aer Lingus has announced that it is adding eight new services from Cork. The airline will operate 140 flights a week from Cork to destinations in the UK and Europe.
It all means that Cork will be getting busier at a time when Shannon is struggling and numbers are falling.
Speaking on Wednesday, Stephen McNamara of Ryanair said that Shannon has nobody to blame but itself, if it was falling behind its southern competitor.
“The costs in Shannon are uncompetitive. Shannon airport had the opportunity to secure over one million Ryanair passengers this year by lowering its costs in line with airports all over Europe, but they refused to do so. This is a huge and avoidable loss for the Shannon Region and the tourism industry. Munster passengers can, however, continue to benefit from Ryanair’s low fares at Knock, Kerry and Cork airports, thanks to lower airport costs and a focus on growing passenger numbers.”
A spokesperson for Shannon Airport rejected the criticism and said the terms being offered by Ryanair were unrealistic.
“Owing to the Ryanair decision that was based on its unwillingness to pay airport charges, which are essential for the airport operation, we will see a significant reduction in their operation in April.
“The loss of these services is regrettable but it has proved impossible to operate the airport on a viable basis on as low a level of charge as was enjoyed by Ryanair when availing of our incentive schemes.”
Things had actually looked worse for Shannon until this week when Ryanair did a U-turn and opted not to cut its services to Edinburgh and Liverpool, both of which had been due to go in April. Around 1,000 people a week travel to one or other of these destinations.
Clare TD Pat Breen questioned why the two airlines were both moving their focus to Cork at the same time.
“I have to question why rival airlines Ryanair and Aer Lingus are going to war in the skies over Cork Airport, when there is loads of potential and spare capacity available here at Shannon Airport. At this stage, it appears that both airlines are playing mind games at Shannon Airport and it is time now that both airlines clarified their future plans.”
He said that Ryanair had previously done well out of sun holiday destinations it served from Shannon.
“Several of the routes which are now being opened from Cork by Ryanair include sun destinations like Alicante, Barcelona, Faro and Lanzarote, routes that Ryanair were serving from Shannon Airport and which were well supported by Mid-West holidaymakers. The loss of these popular sun destinations from Shannon Airport has angered many leisure travellers and the business community who travelled on these popular routes.”
Aer Lingus have recently entered into a franchise agreement with Aer Arann and Deputy Breen called on the airline to use this to boost its services from Shannon.
He also called on Ryanair to resume talks with the Shannon Airport Authority, claiming the two sides had “a very fruitful relationship” over the years.
The Fine Gael TD called for the Government to remove the controversial €10 air travel tax.
“I would urge the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan to reconsider his refusal to abolish the €10 air travel tax. It would be a welcome boost for our dwindling tourism industry and it would also call Michael O’Leary’s bluff in relation to Shannon Airport.”
While official passenger figures for Shannon in 2009 are not available yet, it’s understood that approximately 2.9 million passengers used the airport. That was down from 3.16 million in 2008 and 3.62 million in 2007.