WORLD ROUTES: Airport Award Winner Secures Transatlantic Boost

After securing a ‘Highly Commended’ award in the under four million passenger section of this year’s World Routes Marketing Awards, Shannon Airport has more to celebrate than simply picking up the prestigious recommendation, news that United Airlines is to increase capacity on its route between the western Irish city and its Chicago O’Hare International hub next year.

The US major has confirmed that not only will it resume its seasonal transatlantic link in 2014 but that it offer 88 per cent more seats with more regular flights and longer season.  The announcement is a further significant vote of confidence in the quality and unique tourism product on offer across the West of Ireland and the strategy of the new owners and management at the airport.

United Airlines will resume the Shannon – Chicago service from May 22, 2014 and operate through to September 14, 2014 – a five week extension on this year’s schedule.  The additional 90 flights will provide 15,000 seats.  In addition to the extension, the service will also increase from five weekly flights this year to daily flights in 2014 during peak season between June 16, 2014 and August 17, 2014.

The announcement comes as Shannon Airport revealed to The HUB at World Routes that it had achieved a fourth consecutive month of passenger growth with a seven per cent growth in month-on-month figures for September.   Total passenger numbers in September 2013 were 276,289, with transatlantic services enjoying a 21 per cent rise on September last year and European services showing a four per cent increase.

“This is excellent news on the double for Shannon.  Not only have we recorded another month of growth following five successive years of decline but this further commitment by United bodes very well also for next year.   It is further proof of the strong market there is for the unique West of Ireland tourism product and the demand on this side of the Atlantic for US services as well,” said Neil Pakey, chief executive officer designate, Shannon Group.

The news of United’s expanded operation has been welcomed by tourism interests across the Western seaboard on whose behalf the Airport has been seeking extensions of key seasonal services, like Shannon-Chicago, into the shoulder periods next year.  This comes on the back of an almost 40 per cent increase in the number of transatlantic passengers arriving and departing Shannon during the summer months in 2013 thanks to a range of new services this year.

Among those to welcome the extension was Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring who said: “United’s decision to extend its Chicago service, adding on another 88 per cent in capacity next year, is a significant vote of confidence in an independent Shannon Airport.  When Shannon was separated from the DAA last December, our priority was to return the airport to growth following serious annual decline over the previous five years.”

“The results to date this year, and the airport’s own predictions for 2013, suggest that objective will be achieved in 2013. That would be a major achievement in the first year of independence. I am confident that we will see further positive developments in the next few weeks and months, and I welcome United’s continued commitment to Ireland and the mid-west,” he added.