Wednesday, 1 November 1978
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. O'Donnell: asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport if he is aware of the growing apprehension at Shannon  Airport about a possible decline in passenger traffic; the plans, if any, he has to counteract any such decline; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
For the first nine months of 1978 terminal traffic, which is the main base of the airport's operations, increased by 4 per cent compared with the same period in 1977 despite the ten week strike by certain Aer Lingus staff. There was a decline of 8.8 per cent in transit traffic over the same period. Transit traffic is largely dependent on the level of charter traffic and, viewed against the very steep diversion of traffic from charter to scheduled services experienced this year on the North Atlantic generally, the transit traffic figures at Shannon must be regarded as quite good.
Aer Rianta and the Shannon Free Airport Development Company will vigorously pursue their efforts to increase traffic to and through the airport. Aer Lingus and Bord Fáilte will continue their intensive campaigns to attract tourists to Ireland. With the efforts of these agencies and the resumption of growth in air travel generally, I have every confidence that traffic at the airport will continue to grow satisfactorily.
Mr. O'Donnell: Is the Minister aware that the decline in transit traffic is alarming, and that there are grounds for apprehension? Will he ensure that the State bodies to which he referred will be given adequate finance to continue and sustain an intensive promotional effort? Has he given them any extra subvention in the current year?
Mr. Faulkner: Let me repeat what I said originally. I do not accept that there is cause for great concern in relation to transit traffic. My information is that North Atlantic charter traffic is estimated to have declined by over 25 per cent in the period January to September of this year. In this context a decline of less than 9 per cent in transit traffic at Shannon for the January-September  period is a very good performance. I think the Deputy will accept that. The Deputy can be assured that the Shannon Free Airport Development Company and Aer Rianta will get every assistance from the Government to continue to develop that traffic.
Mr. O'Donnell: Could the Minister outline the reasons for the 8 per cent decline in transit traffic in the first nine months of the current year? Could he give us more detail as to what these reasons were?
Mr. Faulkner: To some extent the decline in the transit traffic was affected by the Aer Lingus strike I mentioned. It is also a fact that, because of the fares situation, scheduled flights have taken over to quite and extent from charter flights. This was part of the reason. The Deputy can be assured that everything possible will be done to overcome whatever problems there are.
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