Shannon ‘doomed’ with state: O’Leary

Shannon Airport is doomed if it remains in public ownership and is not sold immediately to the highest bidder, Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary predicts.

Mr O’Leary has written to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, urging him to sell Shannon and Cork airports to the highest bidder.

In an interview yesterday, Mr O’Leary said that “Shannon is doomed” if it remains in public ownership and is not sold to the highest bidder.

Mr Varadkar is currently evaluating future ownership options for the two airports and stated last week that Shannon will be retained within public ownership “as it is a strategic national asset”.

However, in a letter to Mr Varadkar, Mr O’Leary wrote: “As a Government-owned monopoly, we do not believe that the Dublin Airport Authority is capable of reform and we strongly recommend that it be broken up with the sale — to the highest bidder — of Shannon and Cork airports and at least one of the two terminals at Dublin in order to allow competition to deliver lower prices, improved service and traffic/jobs growth, where the DAA monopoly has clearly failed.”

Mr O’Leary said yesterday: “If the Government got €40m to €50m for Shannon, it should sell it. It is the only way forward for Shannon and Cork, and would give the airports vitality and energy.”

Mr O’Leary ruled out cash-rich Ryanair purchasing either airport. He said: “But we can introduce Government to operators of successful private airports at Prestwick and Cardiff.”

It is understood that one of the options put forward by the Booz consultants’ report is Shannon remaining in majority public ownership with the airport seeking outside private investment.

Last Friday, Mr Varadkar said that Shannon needs capital development, but pointed out that the DAA has no money to invest in Shannon.

Mr O’Leary said that Shannon remaining in public ownership “has been a disaster” for the airport.

“When Pat Shanahan [who signed the five-year Shannon deal with Mr O’Leary] was there as chairman, there was a buzz about the place,” he said. “The place was busy and growing, but now you have empty shops, empty restaurants.”

Shannon’s traffic fell to 1.5 million last year.

Last year, the DAA rejected a deal with Ryanair to increase passenger numbers at Shannon by one million, with then DAA chairman David Dilger dismissing the offer as representing “unprofitable growth”.

Mr O’Leary was also yesterday scathing of Shannon Airport Authority’s plans to establish a cargo hub at Shannon. “There ain’t going to be a cargo hub with larger plans able to fly longer distances.”

The airline boss said Mr Varadkar “is only re-arranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic by keeping Shannon in public ownership and letting Shannon Development — another bunch of bureaucrats — to run it”.

Last Friday, Mr Varadkar said it is his intention that, by Easter, the Government will make a decision in principle as to whether Shannon airport can be separated from the DAA.

He said he intends to publish the Booz Consultants’ report into the future of Shannon this month.

On Mr O’Leary’s claim that Shannon airport “is doomed”, a spokesman for the SAA said last night: “We wouldn’t dignify that with a comment.

“The ownership of the airport is a matter for the minister.”


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