Shannon Airport calls for funding support

Shannon Airport calls for funding support

The operator of Shannon Airport has urged the Government to financially support its efforts to secure flight connectivity to one of the EU's major airports after Brexit.

Shannon is already connected to Heathrow, but the effectiveness of that would change with the UK leaving both the EU and the customs union.

Shannon's management said it can help by presenting "a compelling proposition" to airlines, but Shannon Airport is specifically looking for the Government to establish a "connectivity fund" to help its cause.

The airport split from the Daa five years ago to come under the auspices of the State-backed Shannon Group - which also oversees Shannon Heritage and Shannon Commercial Properties, which targets business investment in the region.

Speaking on the back of the publication of strong 2018 figures - showing growth across each of its divisions - Shannon Group chief executive Matthew Thomas said Brexit is a concern for Shannon Airport and the west of Ireland as a whole.

"We need connectivity to key business markets. We're very well served into North America, but we need to replicate that into one of the key eastbound hubs; whether that's Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam," he said.

Shannon Airport boosted passenger numbers by 6.5% last year; its best year in a decade seeing more than 1.86 million people fly through it.

While still short of its 2.5 million passenger target by this point, Mr Thomas said the figures vindicate the separation from the Daa and said the numbers compare favourably to any Irish airport outside of Dublin.

Shannon Heritage visitor numbers jumped more than 4% last year, while Shannon Commercial Properties completed the €40m first phase of its investment programme.

Within that Shannon Free Zone has now more than doubled occupancy rates to 94% since 2013.

Car maker Jaguar-Land Rover took up space in the Shannon Free Zone last year. Mr Thomas said interest was being shown in the west of Ireland by a number of UK companies.

However, he said it was "hard to say" whether such activity was a direct effect of Brexit.

"As a primary catalyst for economic growth for the west of Ireland and beyond, we fully understand that our improved business performance stimulates economic benefits both regionally and nationally. Shannon Group's activities support 46,500 jobs annually. When we grow, the economy grows," Mr Thomas said.

"We are set on an ambitious course, investing aggressively in our businesses to drive further growth in the years ahead," he said.

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