Chambers representing businesses that directly support over 100,000 jobs across the Mid-Wet and West have united in one voice in a submission to government for supports to help Shannon Airport navigate the current crisis and establish a new model for aviation in Ireland.
The submission from Ennis, Galway, Limerick and Shannon chambers, which collectively represents 1,358 businesses across the Shannon Airport catchment, the proposals have been forwarded today to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan ahead of a meeting sought by the group with him last week.
The chambers, in their joint submission, state that the ability of firms located in Ireland to do business internationally, and the attractiveness of Ireland for foreign firms, labour, and tourists depends on aviation. “As such, the business community in the Mid-West and West of Ireland is deeply concerned following recent decisions by Delta and United Airlines not to resume flights from Shannon Airport in 2021. These concerns have been further exacerbated by recent reports regarding the potential transfer of Aer Lingus aircraft serving routes to the US and UK away from Shannon Airport to alternative UK regional airports,” the submission states.
The chambers say that Ireland’s travel restrictions are among the most restrictive in Europe and the longer these restrictions are in place, the greater the risk they pose to our competitiveness and future economic recovery.
“While the business communities of the Mid-West and West appreciate that public health advice must take priority, we cannot ignore the fact that government-imposed travel restrictions are forcing airlines to make decisions that will have severe repercussions for regional economies. It is now time for the government to intervene and provide a support package for stricken airlines in order to ensure our connectivity into the future.”
The chambers call on government to adopt a strategic approach to support for airlines that are struggling to cope with the impact of COVID-19 and to follow the footsteps of Austria and France by ensuring that any support package has strong environmental conditions attached.
They also urge Minister Ryan to take the opportunity to advance the main objective of Project Ireland 2040 through the attachment of binding conditions for strategic route development into regional airports that will assist in addressing the regional economic imbalances. They outline seven asks that cover both the current crisis and the need to adopt new aviation policy measures that will enable growth at airports in the regions, in line with the objectives of Project Ireland 2040.
The specific asks are:
As soon as public health advice allows, implement fully the recommendations of the Aviation Recovery Taskforce
Provide support packages for airlines who will maintain and develop routes from Irish regional airports. Any such supports should have conditions attached regarding…
New route development into strategic markets to strengthen regional airport connectivity
Targets on carbon emission reductions
In support of Regional Spatial Economic Strategy, undertake an assessment of economic activity around regional airports to identify the strategic routes that present the highest economic value for the corresponding regional economies
Align the Regional Airports Programme with EU criteria so that both Shannon and Cork airports can access capital supports
Align National Aviation Policy with Project Ireland 2040 and strengthen the role of airports as key strategic assets for balanced regional development. The business communities call for the establishment of an independent body with statutory oversight for balanced air traffic development across the Irish airport network.
Specifically relating to operations at Shannon Airport, the chamber further requests the government to:
Urgently appoint Chair to lead Shannon Group
In addition to direct Government funding, allow cross subsidisation to use profits from other divisions within the group in support of strategic route and cargo operations development to ensure the long term-viability of Shannon Airport.
“The critical importance of Transatlantic and European routes with Aer Lingus into Shannon airport cannot be overstated,” the submission states. “This connectivity to other markets is vital for FDI and indigenous businesses operating across Industry and Tourism in the Mid-West and West. As we continue to navigate through the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, we urge the Minister to ensure that these links to vital markets are protected and new routes developed in support of economic recovery.”