By Owen Ryan
SHANNON has had a turbulent relationship with Ryanair for nearly ten years but things are going relatively well at the moment, with the airline kicking off several new routes this week.
Shannon CEO Neil Pakey acknowledged that when he arrived last year, it wasn’t so positive. “I think it’s fair to say that when I joined the relationship between Ryanair and the airport wasn’t where it should be or could be. It was about rebuilding it in order to deliver some passenger growth. We worked with the industry and we had success when the Minister for Finance suspended the travel tax. In the meantime we’ve been talking to the airlines about what we could do at Shannon if we all work together.”
Even before Ryanair began slashing its Shannon services five years ago there were people saying that the airport was overly reliant on the low cost carrier, an outfit which was hardly going to wait around if there was any kind of downturn.
Asked if there was a danger of becoming too dependent on Ryanair once more, Mr Pakey said; “There’s not many airport that have more than one core airline. We’re lucky in that we have a very strong transatlantic market and we’re building on that.
“We’re kind of looking at markets rather than specific airlines. Clearly the two biggest airlines for us are Ryanair and Aer Lingus but we’ve got a healthy contribution from other carriers too and hopefully that will be extended.”
He said that there has been quite a good level of interest in various routes. “I have heard from US Airways that they are about 20% up on Philadelphia sales. Aer Lingus are very happy with the bookings on the Boston and New York routes. The sun spots are doing very well.”
Mr Pakey predicted that Shannon will see an increase of about 10% on its 2013 performance, when it had 1.4 million passengers.
Shannon representatives are set to visit six cities in Germany and America next month promoting the Wild Atlantic Way and Mr Pakey spoke about its potential. “It’s an interesting initiative. I think people see it as a one-year theme but actually it’s about investing in product, upgrading some of the road and some of the signage and building tourism initiatives and products along the route. It could be a five year project and we do expect to see some people coming to enjoy the Wild Atlantic Way.”
When Shannon split from the Dublin Airport Authority the Government announced plans for the development of an International Aviation Services Centre adjacent to the airport, which would ultimately create thousands of jobs.
While there have been few headline announcements over the 15 month’s since Shannon’s separation, Mr Pakey predicted some positive developments in 2014. “There’s quite a few initiatives under way in terms of trying to grow that aviation cluster so hopefully we’ll have some good announcements in the next few months.”
Shannon is developing a new hangar due to demand and Mr Pakey said that it may not even be sufficient. “There’s actually more than one interested party. It makes you wonder do we need more than one.”