THE Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has for the first time acknowledged that Shannon Airport has a viable future as an independently run operation.
It's understood that in a memo being circulated within government departments in advance of a decision being made on Shannon's future, the DAA estimates that the west of Ireland airport could attract 250,000 extra passengers a year if it is cut loose from the DAA group.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar is currently considering the findings of a report on the future of Ireland's state-owned airports.
He has previously said that he favours Shannon remaining within public ownership.
A report prepared last year by consultancy Booz recommended that Shannon should be separated from the DAA and have a new public ownership structure.
It argued that while Shannon Airport has a future, its cost-base is too high. It suggested that local agencies, such as Clare County Council and groups including Shannon Development, could become its the new public owners.
In March, Mr Varadkar said that a tax-incentivised aviation centre at Shannon Airport could be a model for the government to adopt. He also wanted an 'IFSC for the aviation industry' to be based at Shannon.
Mr Varadkar said a landbank beside Shannon Airport could also be used to pursue other aviation activities, such as aircraft recycling and refitting.
"It is my aim to do something innovative for Shannon that will recapture that early spirit that was there with the pioneers of aviation in this region," he told a Chamber of Commerce event in Shannon in March.
It's thought that final proposals for Shannon will be announced shortly. Progress on finalising the plans have been complicated by issues such as state aid and tax rules.