Gatecrashing O'Leary airs grievances at DAA meeting
RYANAIR boss Michael O’Leary gatecrashed a lunch yesterday where the man who oversees the country’s airports was addressing the controversial issue of lossmaking Shannon Airport.
Mr O’Leary was the uninvited guest at Bunratty Castle Hotel in Clare, where he came head-to-head with the Chairman of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), David Dilger.
Both Mr O’Leary and Mr Dilger have been at loggerheads over Ryanair’s involvement at Shannon Airport.
Earlier this year, as part of a legal settlement for failing to honour a five-year contract at Shannon, Ryanair paid €3.7m to the DAA.
The DAA this week rejected a Ryanair offer to bring one million passengers to the beleaguered airport – a proposition that included the return of the €3.7m to the airline.
At yesterday’s Shannon Chamber Spring lunch, Mr Dilger confirmed that the Clare airport sustained losses of €8m in 2009 and €8m again last year.
He said Shannon would continue to record further losses this year -- less than the previous two years -- but added that they were "well on the way" to making the airport sustainable.
Mr Dilger says it is very important that Shannon "breaks even" by 2012.
The Ryanair chief and the DAA chairman came face-to-face in the hotel.
During the unplanned encounter, which had PR handlers on tenterhooks, Mr Dilger expressed his surprise and delight at Mr O'Leary's appearance and said he did not spend enough time in the Mid-West.
"I spend far more time (here) than you," Mr O'Leary quipped.
As Mr Dilger was led away, Mr O'Leary reminded him of his plan for one million passengers at Shannon.
"Michael, I would love to have every single one of them," Mr Dilger said. "Just say yes," was the reply from the Ryanair boss.
Afterwards, the DAA chief said: "Michael's purported generosity to the community of Limerick and Shannon is not really sustainable.
"As well as being paid for passengers, they want 'hello money' (the return of €3.7m) as well. They (Ryanair) are just not living in the real world.
"Much as it pains me to say it, I think the little event today is an attempt to con or indeed to insult the community to whom the future of Shannon is quiet important," Mr Dilger remarked.
Mr O'Leary said Shannon was "well on its way" to having less passengers than some of the country's regional airports, such as Knock or Kerry.
"Sheep will shortly be grazing on the runway at Shannon unless it is checked. The writing is on the wall. Nothing is happening down here. Shannon was the worst performing airport in Europe in 2010 and numbers are down for January. Shannon is going to get closed at this rate," Mr O'Leary said.