RYANAIR’S deputy chief executive Michael Cawley said this week that the airline has tabled a deal to Government that would almost treble passenger numbers at Shannon to one million.
But the company wants charges waived for all additional passengers over the current level of 375,000.
Mr Cawley was in Limerick to speak to the City Council on why Ryanair’s previous base deal at Shannon had been discontinued and how it believes a free deal on additional passengers can benefit Shannon and the region.
New routes to Germany, Italy and the UK are among the new routes Mr Cawley believes Ryanair can make work as long as the price is right.
And that price, according to Michael O’Leary’s second in command, is zero - at least when it comes to Shannon.
“The price of airport facilities in secondary airports around Europe is free to €1 per passenger and that’s what we are trying to tell them (Government). I’m the biggest buyer of airport services in Europe. I deal with that side of our business as well as putting bums on seats on the aircraft. Look at our accounts. Dublin charges us something like €18 per passenger and it’s the same in Stansted. Including those, our average cost around Europe is €3 and what’s driving down the average is all the others who are free.”
Since the previous Shannon deal ended in 2009, airports such as Kerry and Knock have increased Ryanair services. Mr Cawley declined to go into detail on deals with these airports but confirmed it was much more competitive than what the DAA was seeking at Shannon. “What I can tell you is that free is expensive there (Knock and Kerry) now,” he said.
When the five-year base deal at Shannon ended, Ryanair’s costs rose from €1 to €7.50 per head. A further 33 per cent increase in charges as well as the airport departure tax, albeit reduced from €10 to €3, spelled the end for most of Ryanair’s services in Shannon.
The number of aircraft based in the Mid-West has reduced from six to one since 2008 with 24 fewer routes and, crucially, 1.5 million fewer passengers. This amounts for the bulk of the two million passengers shed at Shannon over the last five years.
Mr Cawley says the Government would be “crazy” not to accept Ryanair’s offer to grow passengers to one million - bringing the total back over two million.
And the free deal should be open to Aer Lingus, EasyJet and anybody else interested in growing passenger numbers at Shannon above the current 1.6 million.
For more, see this weekend’s Limerick Leader, print edition