Shannon Airport has described the announcement by United Airlines today of not just the return of its Shannon-Chicago service next year but the almost doubling of capacity as another significant vote of confidence in the quality and unique tourism product across the West of Ireland.
The announcement comes as Shannon Airport reveals that it has achieved a fourth consecutive month of passenger growth with a 7% growth in month-over-month figures for September. Total passenger numbers in September were 276,289, with transatlantic services enjoying a 21% on September last year and European services showing a 4% increase.
This continued good news for the airport follows the global recognition it received from airlines last week when it was one of the winners at the World Routes Awards in Las Vegas, as voted for by the airlines themselves.
The announcement by United Airlines today will see capacity on the Shannon-Chicago service next year increase by 88% as it puts on an additional 90 flights (15,000 seats). The service begins on Thursday, May 22nd next year and runs until Sunday, September 14th – a five week extension on this year’s schedule. In addition to the extension, the service will also increase from five weekly flights this year to daily flights in 2014 June 16th to August 17th.
The news has been welcomed by tourism interests across the Western seaboard on whose behalf the Airport has been seeking extensions of key seasonal services, like Shannon-Chicago, into the shoulder periods next year. This comes on the back of an almost 40% increase in the number of transatlantic passengers arriving and departing Shannon during the summer months in 2013 thanks to a range of new services this year, including Chicago.
Among those to welcome the extension was Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring who said: “United’s decision to extend its Chicago service, adding on another 88% in capacity next year, is a significant vote of confidence in an independent Shannon Airport. When Shannon was separated from the DAA last December, our priority was to return the airport to growth following serious annual decline over the previous five years.
“The results to date this year, and the airport’s own predictions for 2013, suggest that objective will be achieved in 2013. That would be a major achievement in the first year of independence. I am confident that we will see further positive developments in the next few weeks and months, and I welcome United’s continued commitment to Ireland and the mid-west.”
Shannon Group plc CEO designate Neil Pakey said: “This is excellent news on the double for Shannon. Not only have we recorded another month of growth following five successive years of decline but this further commitment by United bodes very well also for next year. It is further proof of the strong market there is for the unique West of Ireland tourism product and the demand on this side of the Atlantic for US services as well. We are delighted to be able to facilitate this demand and support the tourism industry across the western seaboard.
“The extension is also timely ahead of Failte Ireland’s launch of the Wild Atlantic Way project next year. Shannon will be the key transatlantic gateway for this fantastic initiative which will deliver Ireland’s first long-distance touring route, stretching along the Atlantic coast from Donegal to West Cork.”