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Shannon urged to look at starting own airline, Ó Céidigh full time role to be sought

WITH Shannon Airport facing a huge challenge to recover traffic, the Oireacthas Joint Committee on Transport Committee is to suggest that Padraig Ó Céidigh be invited to be the full time chair of Shannon Group, expanding on the part time non executive role to which he is being appointed.

Mr Ó Céidigh appeared before the committee today and was quite positive about a proposal from Senator Timmy Dooley that Shannon look at starting its own airline,

The Fianna Fáil Senator asked “Is it now time for Shannon Airport to look at owning its own airline, to setting up an airline to serve routes that aren’t already served?”

He said it would initially be a small airline, and that aircraft can be obtained relatively cheaply. “It certainly could be done in conjunction with the leasing companies. I think they’d give very favourable rates in the short term.”

Mr Ó Céidigh, who bought Aer Arann in 1994 before expanding it dramatically, praised the idea. “It’s a very, very interesting and entrepreneurial thought and idea, it’s thinking outside the box. In my view its well worth looking at and investigating. I know all about setting up an airline, building an airline and all of that. It’s a huge, huge, huge challenge, and it’s a different business model to an airport model. Having said that we wouldn’t be the first airport to consider doing something like that. I think it’s worth looking at and doing a feasibility study.”

He expressed some confidence about restoring Heathrow and US connectivity, given the numbers that have historically used the services from Shannon.

Mr Ó Céidigh also expressed alarm at Ireland’s failure to go with similar testing mechanisms to other countries at airports. “I can’t understand for the life of me why we’ve been dragging our heels behind the norm that we have in the EU: and other countries in relation to testing.”

He added, “The air filtration in an aeroplane is similiar to what you’ve have in an operating theatre, it’s an incredibly high standard. I can’t understand why we’re not using a simple, effective, PCR test, particularly with the numbers of people that have been vaccinated. The logic escapes me, maybe I’m missing something.”

He is taking on a role as non Executive Chairman of the board of Shannon Group, but said at this moment an Executive Chairman, which would be full time, is required. “I actually think we’re in a very particular situation in relation to aviation and I really think, regardless of who the person is, that an executive chair is critical for Shannon Airport, quite frankly, in the short to medium term.”

Illustrating the challenge, Mr Ó Céidigh said that to restore 2019 levels of traffic would mean achieving a 400% increase in passenger numbers.

Asked if he would have the capacity to take on the role of executive chairman, he said he would “create the capacity” to do so.

The Committee are to write to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, urging that Mr Ó Céidigh’s role be upgraded from non Executive to Executive Chairman.

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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