AVIATION Entreprenuer Domhnal Slattery used the opportunity of speaking to a Clare business audience at the launch of the Ennis App last Wednesday evening to outline his thoughts on the future of Shannon Airport.
The Ennis native was strong in his call for the Government to act now in implementing the report one he describes as the ‘beginning of a new era for Shannon’.
“The Booz report on Shannon Airport was delivered in fanfare a year ago. The task force was appointed in May. That report is with Government. This is the way forward for Shannon. They need to act on it now. We have had enough inaction. Make the decision. Let’s move on this,” he said.
Mr Slattery went on to outline what he would like to see happening with Shannon Airport.
“We need the report before Cabinet now on Shannon Airport ratified and we need the separation of Shannon Aiport from the DAA to begin.
“That separation must include a debt-free airport, one that is co-joined with the massive landbank around the airport currently held by Shannon Development Company.
“We must attach to this an aircraft leasing services sector in Shannon, one that can grow three to four thousand jobs over the next four to five years. Shannon is the orginal home of the aircraft leasing industry worldwide; we need to bring that hub back to Shannon. I work in this sector, I know this sector. This can be done,” he said.
Mr Slattery told the audience that he had met with the Shannon task force and given them his ideas and some feedback and what the proposals for the airport and region might entail.
He went on to give some detail towards what he envisaged for the airport and work practices in Shannon under a new management:
“This move to independence can represent a new and positive era for Shannon. But with this must come some realisations. The current cost structure at Shannon Airport is not competitive. This must be fixed. We have to live in the real world. The airport must have lower fixed costs if it is to be competitive,” he said.
Mr Slattery then gave the example of SRT in Dublin, originally under the management and control of Team Aer Lingus.
“This company was a consistent loss-maker ever year while under the management of Aer Lingus. In the private sector, employees suffered a drastic wage cut but were incentivised to make their numbers every month. This worked; employees in the company are now making more every month than they ever did when working for Aer Lingus. This is just an example of what needs and can be done. Employees must play a huge role here in being incentivised and in profit sharing. We must live in the real world,” he stressed.
The last component of Mr Slattery’s blueprint for a competitive, independent and ultimately profitable Shannon Airport was a controversial one, as he made a strong pitch for the return of Ryanair to Shannon.
“Lastly we need an anchor tenant airline in Shannon. A revised cost structure would help bring in Ryanair and this is a key part of Shannon’s future,” he said. Pausing, Mr Slattery again re-emphasised the value of bringing the airline to Shannon and why it must happen.
“Ryanair in Shannon is a must. We need a vibrant airport from a passenger perspective and Ryanair can deliver up to two million extra passengers to Shannon and this region every year.
“That’s two million extra customers for all our businesses. Two million people that will need hotels to stay in, restaurants to eat in, cars to hire, pubs ot drink in, shops to shop in and all that would bring to Clare.
“So I say this loud and clear to the Government. Get a deal done with Ryanair and quickly,” he concluded.
Mr Slattery, who spoke without notes, finished on a very positive note, addressing himself to the business community that had gathered in The West County.
“The worst of this recession is over. We have survived it because we did not lie down. We are leaner, meaner and wiser. We will take the lessons from the past few years and they will stand to us,” he said.