That is the message from the Shannon Airport Authority marketing director, Declan Power, who confirmed that the final passenger numbers for 2011 at the airport — yet to be published — will be over 1.6 million, which is down from a 3.6 million peak in 2007.
The drop in traffic is mainly as a result of Ryanair closing its six-aircraft Shannon base.
Mr Power said that passenger numbers in 2012 will be in line with numbers in 2011 and said is the airport’s intention to increase transatlantic traffic from 350,000 last year to 500,000 by 2015.
Mr Power said on the plus side for Shannon is that the airport doesn’t have a dominant carrier anymore that frightened other operators off the routes.
Mr Power also said that while Ryanair provided 32 destinations out of Shannon, 80% of the passenger numbers were Irish people travelling abroad.
He said: “That traffic was there during the boom time in the economy, it is not there now.”
Mr Power said: “Before we had the Ryanair base, we had 5 or 6 different foreign carriers in Shannon and they were all driven out. Now we have to get back to the start again and go back to what we were good at and get other airlines to fly in.”
He pointed out: “Politicians state that Shannon should give everything away for free so that we get the business in, but we have an airport to run. We have to pay for a €6 million overlay on the runway, basic facilities have to be paid for, the lighting and the heating and security.”
Mr Power said it is the airport’s aim to increase its transatlantic services to 500,000 by 2015: “That is what is sustainable for this region. Anything over and above that isn’t going to be sustainable, services will come and go.”
He said: “There is too much negative publicity about Shannon Airport in the media. It is a global village now and that’s picked up by all our customers.”
Mr Power said: “We need to talk up our region and our airport. If we talk negative about it, we’ll start believing the negativity ourselves and we might as well close up and go home.”
Mr Power also said there are too many tourism bodies in the mid-west at 31.
The marketing director also queried the state aid non-state airports such as Knock receive. He said: “It is an unusual situation that we are in where private airports get state funding and state airports don’t get any.”