RIAC: Green air link to Ireland no flight of fancy
HIGHER PLANE: Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and RIAC President and CEO Kelly Fredericks with Rose Hynes, chairwoman of the Shannon Airport Authority.
COURTESY R.I. COMMERCE CORPORATION
By Patrick Anderson PBN Staff Writer
The verdant hills of Ireland are calling Rhode Island’s political and aviation leaders again.
In pursuit of nonstop flights from Warwick’s T.F. Green Airport to the Emerald Isle, R.I. Airport Corporation President and CEO Kelly Fredericks joined Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s recent European trade mission to pitch Irish officials on the Ocean State.
A direct air link between the two countries has been a longstanding goal of T.F. Green leaders and as recently as 2011 Fredericks’ predecessor Kevin Dillon mentioned courting Irish discount carrier Ryanair.
The goal of increasing connections between Ireland and New England appears mutual on the other side of the Atlantic, with two Irish airports actively seeking additional passenger and cargo business in the United States.
But with the airline industry still moving toward consolidation and fewer routes, Fredericks admits convincing airlines to make the investment in new routes to Green won’t be easy regardless of how much the airports want to make it happen.
So why does Fredericks think the time may finally be right to see Irish cities appear on the Green arrivals board?
“The demand is increasing, and we think we have a unique circumstance with Boston,” Fredericks said. “We are never going to beat Boston, but we will see passengers return because Logan does not have the ability to expand to meet future demand for both passengers and cargo.”
Unlike previous efforts to attract Irish flights to Green, the current talks do not focus on Dublin and are not limited to passenger service.
Fredericks visited officials from Shannon Airport and Ireland West Airport Knock, and is in discussions about cargo as well as passenger service.
Located on Ireland’s west coast, Shannon Airport is the country’s third largest by passenger volume and claims to have invented duty-free shopping in 1947.
Shannon, which already has regular direct passenger service to Boston, as well as New York, Newark, N.J., Philadelphia and Chicago, is open to increasing that network to include Providence, Fredericks said, but is even more actively looking at growing its cargo connections.
Shannon handles limited cargo now, but is adjacent to a deepwater port and wants to build a new air-cargo terminal and special economic zone to handle trade to North America and Asia, according to a presentation given to RIAC.