In 2011 the October issue of Flying in Ireland Magazine published a story that headlined: ‘Shannon Airport needs to change to have a financially viable future’. The story came at a time the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar described the existing status quo of both Cork and Shannon airports as “not tenable”. It was a time when reports like this were all too frequent.
The previous year saw Ryanair cut its Shannon routes by 21% with Michael O’Leary then quoted as saying the airport was “dying on its feet”. At the same Aer Lingus announced it would cease transatlantic flights during the winter period. Put simply, things were not looking good for Shannon.
Fast forward three years and the prognosis is remarkably more stable. At the Press Ball on Saturday night the great and the good of the mid-west media industry awarded their Media Merit Award to Rose Hynes, Chairman of Shannon Airport. This award, recognising Hynes and her team at Shannon, is yet another accolade for the airport which has seen a renewed confidence since gaining independence from the DAA just under two years ago.
For it was only last week that saw Shannon Airport receive its most prestigious recognition in many years as it was awarded the Airport Achievement Award from the European Regions Airline Association. The previous week it was an award winner at the World Routes Awards in Chicago.
I remember the bad days when many questioned if Shannon Airport had a future, when all we heard was bad news, when the glory days of aviation in the region were distant memories. Rose Hynes delivered a witty, entertaining and confident speech at the Radisson Hotel on Saturday night. “Separation has been a game changer for Shannon”, she said. The reaction she received from the assembled audience was testament to the fact that Shannon Airport means so much to us a region.
Month after month we are now hearing of the growth in passenger numbers at the airport – Shannon is outpacing the national average with a passenger increase of 15% for the first 6 months of this year. We are seeing tangible increase in tourist numbers to our city and county. Leading carriers are introducing new routes for Shannon regularly.
Rose Hynes has gathered a strong team around her all of whom are dedicated to the continued development of Shannon Airport as a major European and Transatlantic destination. The airport is our most valuable regional asset, our “engine of growth”. Its continued growth is something to be celebrated, supported and to be nurtured.
The team at Shannon Airport are only getting started. The hard work and dedication to the cause is reaping rewards but a lot more is left to be done. As Rose Hynes finished her speech on Saturday night she confirmed just how much things have changed in a very short space of time. “We are galloping forward together”, she said, “…and only starting to get breath in our lungs”.