CORK AIRPORT should remain under the same ownership as Dublin, with Shannon Airport to be run as a separate, more business-orientated entity managed by local bodies.
That is the recommendation of a report on the future of the two airports which was commissioned by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar in October.
While the report has yet to be submitted to the Cabinet, sources say the consultancy firm Booz and Company makes key recommendations that could radically shape both airports’ futures.
Booz finds that Cork Airport is profitable on a day-to-day-basis, but has accrued significant debt from the development of the new terminal. It is also struggling with difficulties arising from the economic downturn.
The consultants believe that while it will be able to pay the interest on its loans in the long term, for the immediate future it should remain under the a common ownership structure with Dublin. However, in the new arrangement, Cork would have greater autonomy.
If it was to go it alone, saddled with the debt for the terminal, it would struggle to grow. However, if it was let go debt free, that would cause difficulties for Dublin.
According to the sources, Booz does not rule out a full separation in the future.
The consultants also believe that if Shannon Airport continued under the current arrangements, its high cost base and falling passenger numbers would mean it might not have a viable future.
Therefore, the company is proposing significant changes to the existing business model.
It recommends that Shannon be removed from the Dublin Airport Authority structure and put into the hands of a public holding company comprised of a number of commercial and public bodies, such as Clare County Council and Shannon Development.
Booz recommends that while the airport should maintain international passenger travel, it should try to develop private plane traffic and cargo activities.
Furthermore, it should look at developing what is described as aeronautical businesses in the landbank adjoining the airport.
When he appointed Booz to carry out the report, Mr Varadkar said it was his objective to free Shannon and Cork “as much as possible” from the control of Dublin without turning them into separate semi-state companies, a policy that was first mooted by a previous transport minister, Seamus Brennan.
Cork Airport is sustaining losses of €10 million to €14m per year, while Shannon Airport’s are at €8m annually.
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