The Government should consider aid for Shannon and Cork airports to help combat the imbalance created by Dublin’s growth, a report backed by four chambers of commerce says.
Privately-owned regional airports such as Knock and Kerry receive Government cash to develop their facilities, but State airports do not.
A report by Denmark's Copenhagen Economics published yesterday urges the Government to consider giving aid to Shannon and Cork airports to allow them compete with Dublin, which has 86 per cent of the market.
Commissioned by Limerick Chamber, with the backing of Shannon, Ennis and Galway chambers, it argues that Dublin's expansion will hit other Irish airports' ability to maintain routes and passengers, and act as catalysts for regional development.
Speaking at its launch, Limerick Chamber economist Catriona Cahill explained that EU rules allowed the State to give Shannon and Cork airports cash to invest in their facilities, but not for their day-to-day business. "However, the Government has chosen to exclude them," she said.
Christian Jeverlund, one of the authors of the report, The Assessment of Aviation Policy as a Driver of Economic Development in west and midwest of Ireland, said government policy in Denmark, the Netherlands and elsewhere reversed the tendency of big city airports to take disproportionately large market shares.
“There is an opportunity being missed here, because capacity is being under-utilised,” he added.
Ms Cahill also called for €3 million from the Government to help Shannon develop a regular service to Frankfurt.
The airport will lose its only service to an EU hub, Heathrow, after Brexit, as the London gateway will no longer be in the bloc.
The report calculates that a twice-daily Frankfurt service would generate €400 million a-year for the midwest and west.
Figures show that passenger numbers fell 8 per cent so far this year at Shannon but rose 10 per cent in Cork and 4 per cent at Knock.
A spokesman for DAA, owner of Dublin and Cork airports, said the capital's growth did not come at the expense of other gateways.
“Dublin Airport is building a very significant transfer business, with more than 2.1 million people using Dublin as a hub last year. That business did not exist in 2011 and has accounted for about 20 per cent of Dublin Airport’s traffic growth since then,” he said.