Ryanair adds eight routes in huge boost for Shannon
The west of Ireland is hoping for a tourism boost after Ryanair launched eight new services from Shannon Airport to destinations across Europe.
Ryanair will start services to Berlin, Munich, Warsaw, Krakow, Paris, Faro, the Canaries and Nice next year in a significant coup for the airport that has suffered years of traffic declines.
Michael Cawley, the airline's chief operating officer, said the services would add 200,000 seats to its operations at Shannon next year and 300,000 in a full year. That will nearly double Ryanair's existing capacity at Shannon to 750,000.
It will result in the airport's passenger numbers rising by 15pc next year.
At one stage, Ryanair used to carry about 1.9 million passengers a year at Shannon, which late last year became independent from the Dublin Airport Authority.
The announcement was made as Shannon played temporary host to US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was passing through the airport yesterday.
The fresh expansion comes after Finance Minister Michael Noonan announced in last week's Budget that he's scrapping the controversial €3 travel tax that's levied on passengers departing from Irish airports.
He said he expected airlines to respond accordingly and welcomed yesterday's announcement.
Ryanair – headed by Michael O'Leary – indicated the day after the Budget that it intended to bring one million extra passengers to Irish airports, including Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Kerry and Knock.
Management have already spoken to the airport chiefs and are working on how the passenger growth will be apportioned.
"Now that the Government has responded to the airlines and reduced the travel tax to zero, I want to see further announcements of this kind, not just at Shannon and not just by Ryanair," said Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.
"More flights into Ireland at more locations will mean more visitors from oversees, and a bigger tourism dividend. It will also assist the Government in promoting the new Wild Atlantic Way to international markets next year."
The Clare Tourism Forum claimed the new routes would help to sustain thousands of jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector in the region.
Shannon Group chief executive Neil Pakey –who joined just this year – welcomed the new Ryanair routes saying it was a major boost for the region.