Business Irish

Friday 29 August 2014

Leaked report forecasts 3,000 new jobs at Shannon within five years

John Mulligan and Maeve Dineen

Published 01/12/2012 | 05:00

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MORE than 3,000 new jobs will be created around Shannon Airport under plans to separate the facility from the Dublin Airport Authority, according to a new report seen by the Irish Independent.

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The draft blueprint was prepared for the Government by two task forces and a steering group set up earlier this year to chart Shannon Airport's future as an independent entity.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton will formally unveil the plans at an aviation conference to be held in Dublin on Monday.

The announcement will include details of additional route development at Shannon, as well new aviation businesses. It is forecast that the new jobs will be created within five years.

The hugely ambitious jobs target set out in the report will be met by developing the area as an international centre for aviation-industry services.

Major pilot, crew and aviation-engineering-training facilities are among the operations that Shannon hopes to establish as it faces a future without the financial backing of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

Shannon Airport is to see its €100m debt taken over by the DAA under the plan to make it independent from the airport structure. But the report also stresses that keeping costs under control at Shannon will be paramount in ensuring its long-term survival.

It also points out that as a separate entity Shannon will be able to become more flexible in terms of the incentives it can offer airlines.

Shannon will also try to compete with Dublin and other airports, such as Knock, for both short-haul and long-haul services. Part of that plan could include persuading Ryanair to launch more services from Shannon.

The report also envisages that Shannon could intensify its presence in the global aviation-finance business. It also details plans to establish facilities for the stripping down of old aircraft and the maintenance and repair of airline fleets.

International aircraft-finance firms, such as Gecas (part of GE Capital), already have operations in Shannon. Ryanair founder Tony Ryan established his one-time successful worldwide aircraft-leasing business, Guinness Peat Aviation, in Shannon in 1975. It was bought by GE Capital after getting into trouble in the early 1990s.

Another ambitious element of the plan is the development of Shannon as a transatlantic hub and making more use of its pre-clearance facilities for US customs and immigration.

Stop-over ended

The elimination of the forced stop-over at Shannon for transatlantic flights to and from Ireland in 2008 was welcomed by the airline industry and consumers, but the move spelt serious trouble for Shannon.

Its passenger numbers had been buoyed in the last decade by US troops transiting between hot zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. But with US military involvement in those countries now tapering off, it means less trade for Shannon.

Last year, 250,000 US troops transited through Shannon, but just 45,000 did so in the first four months of this year. Two million US soldiers have passed through Shannon since 2001.

Aer Lingus has just agreed redundancy terms this week with maintenance workers at Shannon as it plans to consolidate the operation with activities in Dublin.

Irish Independent

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