Before the debate was adjourned, I said I would try to answer many of the questions that were put to me if possible and that what I had said on the opening of the Second Stage had been confined to the essential facts in view of the coming debate on the Estimate. I would like, first of all, to refer to some of the points made by Deputy Corish. Deputy Corish appeared to have no great faith in the American tourist potential market. While I agree with him that we must always pay attention to the very great market available at our door from Great Britain and although the effort of Bord Fáilte is rightly concentrated on attracting tourists from Great Britain, nevertheless there is a tremendous untapped American market available to us.
The Americans, in a recent year, were reckoned to have spent $17,000,000 in this country. At the moment, of those who cross the Atlantic by air only about five per cent. land in Ireland and although our Estimates are based on that general percentage continuing, we hope, by promoting good air services and by other tourist development, to attract an ever-larger number of Americans to our country. In fact the whole of the investment both in respect of Shannon Airport and in respect of Aerlínte, when considered in relation even to the present income which Americans leave behind in this country, is not exaggerated in any way. If one were even to relate the capital investment in jet planes, together with the investment in Shannon Airport, to the additional market made available to Irish farmers by Americans who stay in our hotels, I would still say it was a good investment.
One of the objectives in starting Aerlínte was to develop transatlantic air traffic as a whole, to stimulate other carriers to compete with Aerlínte so as to ensure a continual interest in the transatlantic services stopping at Shannon. We have succeeded in that. No fewer than eight air carriers have services regularly calling at Shannon this summer.
There is another aspect of the Aerlínte service which I think I should mention. The world is shrinking very rapidly and any Irish air service which looks only eastwards is not taking full advantage of the potential offered by modern travel. One of the purposes in starting the Aerlínte Boeing jet service was to encourage east-west traffic, to encourage people to cross the Atlantic and to move onwards to Europe in Aer Lingus planes and equally to return home from Europe, staying in Ireland and going on the same service to America. Everything that the Deputies have said in relation to the excellent service offered by Aer Lingus —and I would like to reply on behalf of the company and acknowledge the tribute that has been paid to Aer Lingus—can only be represented in this way: if the service is as good as that, we should encourage people to make a complete round trip from America to Ireland, to England, other parts of Europe and back again. It is in order to provide a complete service east and west that Aerlínte was started and I believe it is an essential feature of a modern Irish air service. The idea that we should go no further towards the west than Shannon is an utterly out-of-date conception.
Deputy Dillon and some other Deputies asked me to say something more about the statement in the Second Reading speech that for the financial year ending 31st March, 1961, it was likely that, taken as a whole, the Aer Lingus and Aerlínte services would balance each other financially. I can give approximate figures. Accounts have not been completed and I want to make it quite clear that the figures are only approximate, the anticipated surplus in the case of Aer Lingus is in the neighbourhood of £180,000 and the loss in the case of Aerlínte is in the neighbourhood of £80,000.
It is true that some years ago when highly speculative predictions were made of what would be the financial outturn in each of the first three years of Aerlínte's operation, it was hoped that in the year which has ended Aerlínte would break even. I think that to arrive at a loss of £80,000 after successive losses of over £800,000 and of over £500,000 indicated that the prediction was not inaccurate having regard to all the difficulties of making a prediction of this kind.
This year Aerlínte will have its fleet of three Boeing planes. It will be a year of transition and all I can say is that there has been a very great increase of traffic, as I indicated at the beginning of the debate, and that forward bookings are extremely satisfactory. I hope that although previous predictions were not fully realised the Company will progress.
I should make it clear that the idea that Aer Lingus is going to be bled by Aerlínte, which was suggested by several Deputies, is utterly without foundation. Both these companies are run by the same management group. Their accounts will be kept separate and one company will not be allowed bleed another.
Aer Lingus puts aside in every year a very considerable sum for depreciation. The amount required under this Bill would be very much larger were it not, as I indicated in my speech, that Aer Lingus are financing part of their programme out of their own depreciation reserves. The Aer Lingus depreciation reserves are not being taken in order to finance the development loss of Aerlínte. I can assure the House that it would be the duty of the Minister for Transport and Power at all times to ensure a correct relationship between one company and another and that the development of one company will not in any way be restricted or hampered.
Deputy Dillon gave some figures in relation to the total loss that has been experienced so far in the operation of Shannon Airport. It is quite evident that any airport in its early stages, when traffic is developing, will lose considerable sums of money. I should point out that, not including depreciation and interest on capital in a recent year, the operating revenue at Shannon Airport was slightly in excess of the operating expenditure, showing that, as traffic has grown, the financial postion of the airport has improved.
In 1960, some 412,000 passengers passed through the airport. Insofar as raising the charges for planes landing at the airport is concerned, I should tell Deputy Dillon there is an upward limit to that process. So far as I know, there are no civil airports in the whole of Europe which pay their way. We have made comparative investigations of the deficits experienced here as compared with those in typical airports of Northern Europe. If you take Dublin or Shannon Airport, and take the receipts as a percentage of expenditure, we compare very favourably with the airports of Europe.
I personally believe that airports should be made to pay. I would dearly love to raise the landing charges of all the aircraft landings at Shannon and Dublin and to make up my mind that these institutions should pay their way. I do not see why they should be subsidised by the taxpayer when going in an airplane is becoming as common as going in a motor-car.