Rival bid for US troop air traffic a blow to Shannon
SHANNON Airport faces the loss of US troop transfers, after a German airport emerged with a major bid for the multi-million euro business.
Last night, politicians and business leaders warned that any potential loss of the US military traffic to Leipzig could be catastrophic for the entire mid-west region.
More than one million US troops have passed through Shannon airport since 2006 en route to Iraq and Afghanistan with almost 250,000 using the Clare airport alone last year.
Shannon has refused to reveal its latest non military passenger figures to the Irish Independent -- but it is understood they are worse than Cork Airport where traffic for August was down by 7pc.
Pressure is now mounting on the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) -- which effectively controls both Shannon and Cork -- amid dramatically worsening trading performances for Ireland's two key regional airports.
Traffic at Cork Airport for the year to the end of August is 1,697,340 passengers -- down 12pc on the same period in 2009. The airport is now facing a likely drop of 350,000 passengers on 2009 levels.
The Irish Independent understands that Shannon -- now heavily dependent on US troop transits -- has suffered an even worse performance.
There are mounting fears that massive cutbacks in Shannon operations by major carriers, including Ryanair, could leave the airport facing a 60pc drop compared to its 2006 passenger throughput.
Ryanair, Shannon's major operator, has now slashed its operations at the Clare airport after failing to secure a cut-price landing charges deal.
From having six Boeing 737-800s based in Shannon just 18 months ago, Ryanair will shortly have just a single aircraft based there.
Earlier this month, Ryanair cut its flights at Shannon by over a fifth. Where the carrier once boasted 35 destinations in 2008, it is left with just six routes this winter.
From a high of 3.6 million passengers in 2006 and 2007, the figures decreased to 3.2 million in 2008 before dropping to 2.8 million last year.
It is anticipated this year's figures will drop by almost half to 1.5 million.
The downturn has led to frustration in the region's business and tourism sectors as Shannon Airport Authority (SAA) board is remaining silent on its future plans are.
Former SAA board member, Tadhg Kearney, said the airport does not have a future if it cannot not hammer out a deal with Ryanair.
"It (Ryanair) is the biggest low cost carrier in the world.
"There is nobody else who would come into Ireland and compete with Ryanair and deliver big numbers into Shannon which has a low population catchment area.
"Shannon needs big numbers to survive," Mr Kearney said.