A LEADING aviation chief has said that Shannon Airport must continue its focus on passenger travel, despite the success of its aerospace and aviation cluster.
Addressing concerns over the future of the Clare-based facility, Embraer Commercial Aviation’s President and CEO, John Slattery, said that “it would be a disaster” if the international airport was to brush aside its commitment to growing passenger numbers.
“You have to do everything you can to not only maintain the passenger numbers that you have going through the airport but to grow them,” said the Ennis native.
Stating that his love for aviation started at Shannon, Mr Slattery said that while the continued growth of the aviation cluster is vital, the airport has to improve connectivity, highlighting the fact that he had to fly to Dublin from New York for his visit to Clare.
Shannon has seen the growth of the largest aerospace and aviation cluster in Ireland and while the Clare-born CEO praised the “great progress”, he voiced his concerns that the region would significantly lose out if the airport were to become a cargo-based facility.
With this in mind, the Embraer chief said that without the connectivity businesses in the region will migrate towards Dublin.
“If it is more difficult for these guys [Shannon-based companies] to get in and out of Shannon Airport the pressure to move to Dublin is enormous.
“The connectivity out of Dublin is off the charts, relative to what it was five years ago.
“You can go anywhere out of Dublin today.
“We need to do everything we can to maintain the service we have today [in Shannon Airport] and, frankly, to improve it,” added Mr Slattery.
Warning about the importance of the airport to Shannon as an investment location he called on all stakeholders in Shannon to continue to keep the pressure on the Government to give more support to the West of Ireland.
Mr Slattery also stated that the US pre-clearance facility at Shannon Airport should be a major advantage and be used more to drive passenger number growth.
“It will be difficult to keep the big players here without adequate connectivity.
“Shannon can never compete with Dublin. It needs to zone in on what attracts people to the region, keep looking for support and assessing new ways of utilising its pre-clearance facilities. It cannot afford to become a cargo-based airport,” he said.
“We are not in a centre of a major cosmopolitan area but we have a enormous resource in the airport, the infrastructure around the airport and hats to everybody involved in creating a cluster.
“There is no easy way to broaden the cluster you just have to win one fight at a time and you’ve got to make sure you keep the people that are here.
“The Government has to support them. There is no interest in having everything in Dublin,” Mr Slattery concluded.