The CEO of Shannon Group, has described 2021 as ‘another challenging year,’ but says she is optimistic for the future.
Commenting as the Group releases its end of year results, Mary Considine said: “Our team at Shannon Group have been unwavering in our focus on recovery and rebuilding to ensure a successful future for our employees, the people and businesses in our region who rely on our Shannon Airport services for their livelihoods. Although it has been another challenging year, having come through the worst of the Pandemic, we are confident that the foundations for recovery are in place.
“With the welcome announcement of the lifting of restrictions, there is real optimism in the air. While it will still take time for the unwinding of Covid restrictions to filter down into the aviation sector, it is a really positive development for industries devastated by the pandemic,” says Ms Considine.
Shannon Airport passenger numbers rose 8% in 2021 compared to 2020, with most travel taking place in the latter part of the year following the rollout of the vaccination programme and the introduction of the EU Digital Covid Cert enabling the lifting of restrictions on non-essential air travel from mid-July of last year. Almost 380,000 people used Shannon Airport in 2021, compared to just over 352,000 in 2020. This is however still down 78% on 2019, the last full year of operation before the pandemic.
The airport saw a strong recovery in its European and UK services in 2021. European passenger numbers from Shannon recovered to 65% of 2019 levels, and the UK market to 43% of 2019 levels. Both markets saw a fivefold increase in passengers between August and November 2021 when compared to the same period in 2020.
“This summer we will operate services to 25 destinations with 107 planned weekly frequencies. The return of Transatlantic services to Boston, New York (JFK) and Newark from Shannon in March, combined with our strong European summer flight schedule and the return to full strength of our Heathrow services, are reasons to be optimistic,” says Ms Considine.
Commenting on future support for the airport Ms Considine said: “We are very grateful for the Government supports announced during the year, and given the enormous task ahead, our airport will continue to need these supports as we rebuild our business in the aftermath of Covid.”
Significant progress was made during the year on the transfer of the Group’s heritage sites to the relevant local authorities. The transfer of these activities will assist Shannon Group to focus on the recovery of the airport, build back international passengers, while continuing to develop its aviation cluster and associated property activities. Visitor numbers to the heritage sites continued to be impacted by the pandemic recording a drop of almost 50% since 2019 when the sites had 963,000 visitors. However, there was some recovery in 2021 with almost 496,000 visitors recorded, up from just over 300,000 visitors recorded in 2020.
The Group’s property development activities across the Shannon campus remained strong in 2021.
“During the period of severe travel restrictions on aviation we took the opportunity to futureproof key elements of our airport infrastructure and continue our property investment strategy across our Group campus. We have worked hard to improve the airport experience for all our customers. The installation of a new cutting-edge security system allowed Shannon to become the first state airport to remove the 100ml only rule on liquids in hand baggage. In addition, the new system has halved the time spent in security screening. This and other investments continue to make the passenger journey even easier,” says Ms Considine.
Shannon Group is one of the partners supporting the exciting work of Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FMCI) in providing a unique real-world setting to research and develop the next generation in automotive technology. During the year, FMCI expanded its land-based operation to include research in future air mobility, and a consortium including Shannon Group worked on innovative plans to establish Ireland’s first air mobility research hub.
Since its establishment in 2014, Shannon Group has invested over €145 million enhancing its airport facilities and providing property solutions at its campus for FDI and indigenous companies, over €60 million of which happened between 2019 and 2021.
Commenting on the future Ms Considine said: “Sustainability is, and will continue to be, central to everything we do. We are committed to rebuilding our airport traffic and to building on our property investment strategy so that we can enhance our economic contribution to the mid-west region and nationally. We will do this by investing in our people to ensure we are continuing to provide meaningful employment, in our infrastructure so we deliver on our carbon reduction targets and, in our community, to ensure the benefits are felt more widely.
“While 2022 will still be a challenging year, and there is still a considerable journey ahead of us, there are positive signs of recovery which give us confidence,” Ms Considine concluded.