- Shannon Airport parent group fears loss of only hub connection – via Heathrow – to EU
- Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons has warned EU-British Open Skies agreement is ‘critical’
- Michael O’Leary believes hard Brexit could ground British aircraft for up to three weeks
Shannon Group, which operates Shannon Airport, is calling on Government to support it in safeguarding EU connectivity for the Mid-West and Western regions following Brexit next March.
Any EU airline can fly anywhere in the European Union under the current Open Skies agreement and Shannon has British hub connectivity through London Heathrow, which it said “will continue to be hugely important connectivity going forward”.
But it warned that after Britain exits the European Union, “the airport will then be without connectivity into an EU hub”.
The issue has been heating up in recent weeks. Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons said recently that the future of Open Skies is “critical” for Irish tourism with potentially “significant downside risks for Ireland if a successful resolution is not found”.
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary warned that a hard Brexit could ground British aircraft for up to three weeks but would be survivable for Ryanair. He said in October that there were no assurances that an agreement would be in place enabling flights to continue after Britain exits the European Union next March.
It was revealed last month that Britain’s Department for Transport that talks with Europe on aviation have not begun. British transport secretary Chris Grayling said flights between Britain and European Union could be disrupted in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but claimed it is “highly unlikely”.
And it was claimed in recent days that British Airways, under a hard Brexit, may not meet EU ownership rules that allow it to operate, due to its British shareholders, as an airline can only operate in Europe if at least half of its shares are held within the EU.
Parent group IAG- which is headquartered in Spain – is in talks with the Spanish government to determine how to proceed, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.
Regarding Shannon, Matthew Thomas, CEO, Shannon Group said: “European hub connectivity is vital for our tourism and business customers in the Mid-West, and Western regions. It provides the air access needed to grow tourism numbers, to conduct business and attract FDI investment from Europe and is now more important than ever in the context of Brexit.
“While European connectivity is currently serviced through the London Heathrow hub, the reality is that in a post-Brexit situation, the West of Ireland will be without this critical EU connectivity.
“We are engaging with Government on specific asks for a connectivity funding programme to secure strategic routes. In addition, we believe that targets should be set for the national tourism agencies to grow visitor numbers into the regions. Government’s Ireland 2040 plan rightly highlights the importance of ‘high quality international connectivity’. We are looking for the mechanism to be put in place to ensure connectivity to a key European hub is in place for the West of Ireland.
“In light of the challenges Ireland would face from Brexit, particularly a hard Brexit, it is of paramount importance that we safeguard our European connectivity. The Government’s Project Ireland 2040 recognises the fact that strong regions are the bedrock of a strong national economy. We believe that a strategic route development fund and regional tourism targets are essential and we would welcome Government’s and stakeholder support to see these asks implemented.”