The director of Shannon airport, Martin Moroney, said yesterday that the airport was "substantially loss-making" and was in a fight for survival.
Addressing members of the Midwest Regional Authority in Ennis, Mr Moroney also confirmed that the airport was taking legal action against Ryanair for "failing miserably" to reach targets in its five-year deal with the airport.
Mr Moroney told members that the airport was "substantially loss-making" and there was "no future for the airport" if that remained the same.
"We have to put in place a profitable airport that is viable and has sustainable growth in traffic," he added.
The long-serving airport director said that "fighting for survival" was "the name of the game for so many businesses in the country" and that Shannon was "no different".
"Shannon is not in terminal decline," he said, adding that "talk of grass growing and tumbleweed on the runway" was "ridiculous" and "very damaging".
Mr Moroney was standing in for airport chairman Brian O'Connell following his late withdrawal from a scheduled appearance before the meeting due to illness.
"It is very, very difficult for the airport to be operating in such negativity and key customers, such as US carriers, are asking us 'what's all this all about?" Mr Moroney said.
He also defended the airport's recent decision to increase passenger charges by €1.58. He said: "Ryanair was the only carrier to create a hullabaloo about that in order to work up negativity around the airport."
Mr Moroney said that the number of passengers going through Shannon this year would be 1.8 million. That was "a long way off what we had in 2007, but similar to 2000 levels".
He added that the airport was in active negotiations with carriers and he was confident of new transatlantic, European and UK routes. Mr Moroney said: "I am confident that we can build up a sustainable route network."
Mr Moroney said that the airport had been hit with the introduction of 'open skies', which ended the Shannon stopover, and what he called the 'Ryanair experiment'.