The Dublin Airport Authority has conceded for the first time that Shannon, which it controls, has a viable independent future.
The Irish Examiner has learned that a memo from the DAA has been circulated to government departments which clearly sets out the view that Shannon would have a future if operated independently.
A well-placed aviation source said last night: “This move by the DAA could be most significant on how the Government moves to salvage the massive decline of Shannon.”
The DAA further stated in the memo — if this was the option taken by the Government — an independent Shannon could attract an additional 250,000 passengers each year.
Passenger numbers at Shannon have plummeted from 3.6m five years ago to 1.6m in 2011.
It is estimated that 1.5m of lost passenger numbers was due to Ryanair shedding services at the airport over its continuing rows with the DAA.
If the Government does decide to separate Shannon from the DAA, it will have to make a decision on what to do with the €100m debt the DAA currently carries for Shannon.
The declining fortunes of Shannon is causing major concern for industry and tourism sectors in the Mid-West.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan and super-junior minister Jan O’Sullivan are under strong pressure politically, and from the various stakeholders in the airport, to secure government action on Shannon.
Leo Varadkar, the transport minister, has had numerous meetings with various interest groups, including leading industries who depend on Shannon’s connectivity to major hubs such as Heathrow.
Mr Varadkar is currently finalising a major plan for Shannon which is expected to be brought to Government within weeks.
He reportedly favours an independent Shannon which would remain in state ownership.
As well as recovering lost passenger numbers, Mr Varadkar is also anxious to develop an international cargo hub, using lands at the airport in the ownership of Shannon Development.
A source said: “This new addition at Shannon would create an international aviation services centre at Shannon.”
The airport lost about €8m last year.
If Shannon is cut free of the DAA, the current debts of the airport, standing at around €100m, will have to be addressed as any new management body could not take it on board.
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