18 May 2022, 16.11
Ø Committee reiterates its call for the review of the National Aviation Policy to get underway to ensure balanced geographical distribution of flights at Airports
Ø Briefed on challenges facing IAA and wider aviation sector in the longer-term
Ø IAA advises that no Russian military aircraft detected by them in Irish controlled and managed Airspace since the IAA appeared before Committee on 2nd February
The Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Cathaoirleach, Deputy Kieran O’Donnell led a visit on Monday 16 May to Shannon Airport and the Irish Aviation Authority in Shannon along with committee members, Senator Jerry Buttimer, Joe Carey TD, Senator Gerry Craughwell, Cathal Crowe TD, Senator Timmy Dooley, Senator Gerry Horkan and Darren O’Rourke TD.
At Shannon Airport, the Committee was met by Mr Conal Henry, Chair Designate of Shannon Group and Ms Mary Considine, CEO of Shannon Group, accompanied by senior management, who briefed the Committee on the airport’s and group’s current operating environment, the progress to recovery being made following the impact of the severe Covid travel restrictions from 2020, and the outlook for future growth.
Positive signs of the Covid rebound were evident at the airport with 26 services to 11 countries secured by Shannon Group with airline partners. March saw the resumption of transatlantic services to New York, Newark and Boston from Shannon as well as the expansion of Shannon-Heathrow service to three flights per day including the vital early morning flight.
Committee Cathaoirleach Deputy Kieran O’Donnell said: “The Committee toured the airport and saw good passenger activity. We were impressed by the experience that the airport now offers to passengers, assisted by the installation of a new state-of-the-art, efficient security system and the airport’s US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. We also discussed the Airport’s plans for establishing a major European hub connectivity.
“Furthermore, the Committee reiterated its call for the long-awaited review of the current national aviation policy to get underway to ensure balanced geographical distribution of flights at Airports. We see Dublin Airport increasing share of air traffic volumes and yet continually under severe passenger capacity pressures, whilst for instance Shannon Airport has an underutilised passenger capacity available of over 2m passengers. In 2019 the Airport had passenger numbers of 1.7m, whist having the capacity to cater for up to 4.5m passengers.
“In our Committee report on “Issues affecting the aviation industry” published in December 2020, we recommended that a new National Aviation Policy must be developed and given priority by Government, setting out a co-ordinated, national approach to ensure balanced recovery and growth across the aviation sector in the medium term.
At the Irish Aviation Authority Air Navigation Service Provider’s (IAA ANSP) state-of-the-art facilities at nearby Ballycasey, the Committee met Mr. Peter Kearney, CEO of the IAA, and his management team.
The IAA’s En-route centre at Ballycasey safely manages the flow of air traffic across Irish controlled airspace, including up to 90% of transatlantic air traffic.
Cathaoirleach O’Donnell said: ““The Committee observed IAA’s critical role in European and transatlantic aviation, viewing first-hand how air traffic controllers manage aircraft safely.
“While the aviation sector is in the course of recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee was briefed on the uncertainty and challenges facing the IAA and the wider aviation sector in the longer-term.
“Of particular concern are the challenges and constraints within the European regulatory model and the IAA will be following up with our Committee on this matter.
“By way of update from their appearance before our Committee on 2nd February, the IAA advised us that no Russian military aircraft have been detected by them in Irish controlled and managed Airspace since then.”