At a press briefing at Dromoland Castle, Mr O’Connell unveiled the airport’s strategy to 2015, stating the airport is aiming to increase passenger numbers to 2.5 million over the next five years.
Mr O’Connell stated its target “is realistic and achievable” and the strategy “is solid, well thought through and very definitive”.
However, the five-year target is 300,000 less than the 2.8 million passengers that went through last year in the final full year of the five-year Ryanair deal.
With the recession and the ending of the Ryanair deal last May, passenger numbers at Shannon are expected to plummet by one million this year to 1.8 million.
According to airport director, Martin Moroney, the 2.5 million — which represents a 28% increase on this year’s projected out-turn “is a minimum target”.
Mr O’Connell said: “We have had a strategy for many years of being low-charge in relation to passenger movements through the
Ryanair did not renew the deal and Mr O’Connell said that Ryanair wanted charges at a level that were “ridiculous”. He said: “You couldn’t even consider it.”
The airport’s head of marketing, Declan Power said: “There is no quick fix to Shannon. There is no white knight or foreign carrier going to come in and set up a base. That applies to Irish aviation and not just to Shannon.”
Shannon is due to make a loss this year and next year and asked when the airport expects to return to profitability, Mr O’Connell said: “It will take three to four years to turn it around, depending on capital investment that is needed over that period of time.”
Mr O’Connell also defended the low profile he has adopted since being appointed chair of the SAA last year as passenger numbers at the airport collapsed.
He said: “It is a very complex business and it has taken time for us to go in and understand that business.
There is no point in coming out with something that it ill-thought through. What we now have is something that is solid and supported by everyone and creates an important plan for the airport.”
Mr O’Connell said he was confident there will be a positive outcome to a proposal by the Lynxs Group to the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) for establishing a cargo hub at Shannon.
Mr O’Connell said: “At present, there are about 3,000 people employed in logistics in the Shannon Region. The creation of a logistics centre at Shannon, and the development of a marine transportation hub on the estuary, could potentially lead to the creation of further employment for 5,000 people in logistics and related high-end manufacturing over the next 10-15 years.”