Former Labour county councillor Virginia O’Dowd has called on Tipperary County Council to campaign for services at Shannon Airport to be restored following a decision by Stobart Air to cut its flights into the Mid-West.
The airline operates 20 flights per week to Edinburgh, Birmingham and Bristol from Shannon under the Aer Lingus Regional flag, but will cease operations from January 5, with staff being offered a chance to relocate within the company. Stobart Air was formerly known as Aer Arann.
“As a councillor and a member of the Mid-West Regional Authority I always pushed for extra services through Shannon because I know how important the airport is to tourism in Tipperary. These were busy routes and I find it hard to understand how an airline can justify closing them as passenger numbers were up. Indeed, Shannon Airport CEO Neil Pakey has said that the service was used by up to 90,000 passengers a year. Other sources showed passenger figures up by 43 per cent in September compared to the same period last year,” said Ms O’Dowd.
She said that the services were also vital to Shannon’s transatlantic trade as many tourists used the UK airports to backtrack into Shannon.
“Tourism has a vital part to play in the economic recovery in Tipperary and we need every available opportunity to make sure it continues to grow,” said Ms O’Dowd.
She called on councillors to press for an early alternative carrier to be found to operate these routes, but warned that with the North and South Tipperary now forming one council the focus may switch elsewhere.
“I am concerned that councillors from South Tipp will fail to see the importance of Shannon to this area. Their focus is bound to be on bringing tourists in through Waterford and Cork to serve their area. I urge councillors from North Tipperary to campaign to ensure that Shannon remains viable,” she said.
Stobart Air has described the decision to pull the plug as “regrettable”, but the airport did not fit with their strategic plan.
Meanwhile, Ryanair has said the airline is in “active discussions” with Shannon Airport in relation to operating a regional flight service to the UK and is also in talks about developing new routes from Shannon.
This was welcomed by Ms O’Dowd, who said it was important to have any new routes and services in operation as quickly as possible