THE newly-appointed chair of the Shannon Airport Authority believes 2013 will be the year that sees the airport’s fortunes turn round.
Rose Hynes expects to be joined by other directors in the coming weeks and said rebuilding passenger numbers would be “the first priority”.
Passenger figures at Shannon have declined every year since 2006.
Shannon officially becomes independent of the Dublin Airport Authority next week and the government has set a target to rebuild passenger traffic to 2.5 million by 2018.
The government’s plans were informed by the work of the aviation business development task force, which was also chaired by Ms Hynes and recommended the establishment of an International Aviation Services Centre on Shannon Development-owned lands around the airport.
She has now been appointed by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar to chair the new Shannon Airport Authority and is expected to remain at the helm once parts of Shannon Development are merged with the new airport company by July 2013.
“It’s something I was actually very keen to do,” Ms Hynes said when asked how she would balance the role with her position as chairman of Bord Gais.
“We will start to see movement with appointments to the board quite soon. It will be a small board at first before it morphs into the new entity to include Shannon Development. It will require legislation to take in Shannon Development but that should be done within the time period set out,” she said.
Starting in 2013, there would be “a whole new situation in Shannon”, she predicted.
“If you come out to Shannon now you will see the new banners are up saying ‘Just think how far we can go’ - and that’s the theme and the approach we must take.”
Announcing the separation plans earlier this month, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar spoke of up to 3500 aviation industry jobs - including aeronautical engineering, aviation finance and leasing, pilot training and other posts - being created around Shannon in the next five years. Up to 1000 of those jobs were already “committed to” by two Shannon companies, one of which entailed the creation of over 800 jobs inside three years, he said.
Minister Varadkar has now entrusted Ms Hynes to lead that revolution at board level at the SAA and the new company.
On whether there would be a jobs boost for the region early in 2013, she said the companies would “be making those announcements when it is appropriate for them to do so”.“There are companies interested and we will be following it up with them in due course,” she added.
The Department of Transport, meanwhile, was satisfied Minister Varadkar had chosen the right person for the job.
“Rose Hynes has been and remains central to Government plans for the development of Shannon Airport and the surrounding lands. She has been appointed to chair the Shannon Airport Authority. As previously announced, it is the intention that the Airport will by mid-2013 be merged with Shannon Development in a new company to drive forward the vision for the airport and the surrounding lands as outlined by the Shannon Aviation Business Development Task Force which was also chaired by Ms Hynes,” a spokesman said.