Shannon Group chairperson, Rose Hynes has launched a stinging broadside at critics who are bemoaning Shannon Airport’s dramatic growth.
In what could be perceived as a swipe at Fianna Fáil leader, Michéal Martin, Ms Hynes said she focuses on earning market share every day in Shannon, instead of “moaning, whining and blaming everybody else”.
Deputy Martin recently claimed in the Dáil that deals being offered by Shannon Airport to grow traffic with airlines such as Ryanair, “do not add any value to the country”.
A special award for service to tourism was presented to Ms Hynes at the third annual Irish Hotels’ Federation Mid-West Fundraising Gala Ball in the Greenhills Hotel, Limerick recently.
Shannon branch chairperson of the Irish Hotels’ Federation, Elaina Fitzgerald-Kane, said Ms Hynes is responsible for a “monumental turnaround” in the airport’s fortunes, which is revitalising tourism across the region.
In 2013, the first full year of operation since becoming an independent entity, the airport succeeded in turning the tide and reversing a five-year decline in passenger numbers. This tremendous upward trajectory continued in 2014, when the airport welcomed over 1.64 million passengers, a 17% increase over the previous year, and succeeded in attracting a range of new air services for tourism and business travellers.
In her speech, Ms Hynes said she accepted the award on behalf of the CEO Neil Pakey and the entire team in Shannon Airport. Following separation, she said Shannon is powering ahead and management has ambitious targets for the future.
“Some excitable commentators and competitors in our business have taken issue with our success and have been bemoaning their loss of passengers.
“My response is ‘market share is there for everybody’. Let’s not forget who decides? The customer decides. It is up to us to give the customers what they want.
“In Shannon, we focus on earning market share every day, instead of moaning, whining and blaming everybody else.
“Earlier this month, Tim Clarke, the chief executive of Emirate Airlines, made a very relevant observation, market share is not a right, it is there to be earned,” she declared.
She confirmed that Shannon Airport had secured additional capacity on their Aer Lingus flights to London, with the help of an A320, which would provide an extra 65,000 seats.
“Shannon must continue to grow the size of the pie, to increase the size of the market and business that would not otherwise be coming into Shannon or Ireland.
“It is critical that our tourism, airline and travel markets are aligned and working together. When we talk to other airlines, our competition is not just other airports in Ireland. It is very blinkered and parochial to think this way.
“Shannon’s competition is all the other airports in Europe which the airlines fly to. The airlines play a key role in dictating the position.
“We know we are in competition with every other airport that an airline like Ryanair flies into. Our job is to make Shannon and the region irresistible,” she said.
Stressing the need to encourage visitors to look outside of Dublin, she pointed out service, quality and value are key factors. She said Shannon is well used to fighting its way and meeting challenges head-on and would continue to do so.
Looking ahead, she said Shannon has to continue being innovative by securing what is needed to become even more attractive, including if this means obtaining a new conference centre.
Quoting the words of Michael Jordan, she said, “Talent win games but teamwork and intelligence wins championships”.
She admitted it was hard to believe that almost three years have passed since she was asked to head up the taskforce to examine the benefits of independence from the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).
“Separation in January 2013 was a game-changer for Shannon and the entire Mid-West Region. There were two crucial elements in achieving our goals.
“There was the collaboration and alignment with all the stakeholders in the region, who played a blinder in that regard. Once everyone was delivering the same message, we were unbeatable.
“The second element was Government policy. The Government decision to separate Shannon, followed by the axing of the travel tax and commitment to retain the 9% VAT rate are examples of enlightened Government policy,” she said.
Commenting on the recent visits of the Chinese Premier, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to Shannon Airport, she noted it provided “fantastic exposure” for the airport and the entire region.
“These visits get us worldwide attention because the staff in Shannon on the ground are really good at it because they have been doing it for years. The staff have welcomed celebrities and VIPs to Shannon for many, many years. That is why we get these visits, that is how it happens,” she said.