LABOUR leader Eamon Gilmore insisted yesterday the huge decline in passenger numbers at Shannon will not be tackled by just transferring management of the airport from the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) to the Shannon Airport Authority (SAA).
All major decisions at Shannon are currently taken by the DAA to which the SAA is answerable.
Ryanair on Wednesday announced further reductions on their destinations out of Shannon. From November, the airline will have just six destinations from the airport, compared with 35 in 2008. Up to 2009, the airline accounted for 1.9 million passengers at Shannon. This figure will fall to around 400,000 in 2011.
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary attributed Shannon’s decline to the “dead hand” of the DAA.
But, speaking in Limerick yesterday, Mr Gilmore said while the Labour Party favoured a “separate” Shannon Airport Authority, that would not be a panacea. He said: “It’s not about what authority is running it; it’s about having a viable business plan for Shannon Airport and ensuring that maximum use is got from the airport.
“Shannon is a major piece of infrastructure. We have an international airport. It’s under used and we have to grow the amount of traffic coming through it. We also have to look at what additional uses can be found for Shannon airport itself.”
Meanwhile the Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Maria Byrne yesterday called for Shannon to be given autonomy to deal with airlines.
“This latest announcement by Ryanair is a severe blow to the economy of the whole mid-west region,” said Ms Byrne. “The loss of the Paris route is particularly damaging as it is a gateway to many parts of the world. The airport is vital to the economy of the mid-west and I call on all parties to support it and ensure that it continues to grow. The Government could certainly help by abolishing the very unpopular travel tax.
“I am placing a notice of motion before Limerick City Council calling on the Government to abolish the travel tax and direct the airport authority to withdraw the increased charges immediately. I call on all ministers, TDs, senators, regional and local authorities to support this motion.
“Ryanair have been very successful and I would ask them to reconsider their decision to reduce flights and reaffirm their commitment to Shannon Airport and the mid-west region. As the region prospers they will also reap the benefit,” she said.
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