shannon Airport’s new management should review the high costs associated with the airport’s designation as a diversion airport for mechanical and medical emergencies over the North Atlantic, a government task force has recommended.
The Government’s acceptance of the task force’s view that Shannon’s cost base is too high has put trade unions on red alert but the report also examines other costs at the airport.
These include the cost of having emergency services on stand-by around the clock in case planes get into difficulty over the Atlantic, if passengers fall ill on board and, in some cases, “air rage” incidents.
The Limerick Leader understands that the cost to the airport of having this cover in place stands at around €2 million annually.
In the final report of the aviation business development task force, chaired by Bord Gais chairman Rose Hynes, the effect of these costs on Shannon’s bottom line is questioned.
“Shannon is unique among the state airports in being open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, as befits its status as a common diversion airport for aircraft encountering technical or medical emergencies over the Atlantic. This status also dictates the maintenance of an around-the-clock
airport rescue and firefighting service. These opening hours impose an additional cost burden,” the report states.
“Actual diversions are relatively infrequent and do not materially defray the costs of round-the-clock operation. However, the US military transit flights do make use of the extended opening hours.”
It is recommended that the new regime in Shannon “should keep under review from an overall cost benefit perspective the specific costs and revenues associated with 24/7/365 operation, over and above operation in normal commercial hours”.
On military traffic, the report recommends that Shannon should continue to court stopovers in spite of the wind-down of US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It is anticipated that the United States will continue to have a certain ongoing requirement to transfer troops to and from permanent bases in the Middle East. A refuelling stop is necessary en route, and Shannon competes with other European airports such as Leipzig for this business,” the report states, adding the airport has already been lobbying for the extension of US immigration and customs pre-clearance to American troops in transit through Shannon.