The managing director of Shannon Airport, Andrew Murphy, has left his role.

He will be taking up a position elsewhere in the aviation sector.

Mr Murphy was appointed to the position in January 2017, having previously served as Chief Commercial Officer at Shannon Group, the company responsible for running the State-owned airport. 

Commenting on his decision, Mary Considine, CEO, Shannon Group said: "Andrew has played an instrumental role at Shannon Group since the early days of its establishment and we are very appreciative of his dedication and hard work throughout his career with us. I would like to wish him every success and happiness in his new career."

Shannon Airport recommenced passenger flights this week, with the resumption of 16 Ryanair services. Since the on-set of the Covid-19 pandemic, the airport is averaging a 96% drop in passenger numbers.

Fears of turbulent times ahead for Shannon Airport

Last month Shannon airport warned that traffic could fall by up to 70% this year and that it would take at least three years for passenger numbers to return to 2019 levels.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Shannon had already seen a dip in traffic, due to the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX and a Ryanair cost-cutting programme, but 2020 had been looking positive.

Last month, however, United Airlines dropped its Shannon-Newark service.

And the airport's most popular route, London-Heathrow, has been suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions, despite Aer Lingus opting to retain their Heathrow services from other airports. 

The pandemic has compounded an already difficult situation for the airport.

Last week a one-off grant of €6.1 million was approved for Shannon Airport.

Former transport minister Shane Ross helped to secure the grant and said "if they hadn't got that funding from the government I believe they probably would have run out of cash by October." 

He said all airports are in significant difficulty, but he believes Shannon's situation is particularly acute. 

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The funding was welcomed as a vital support at a critical time, something that would allow Shannon to complete a "hold baggage screening capital project".

However, Shannon said this project was something the airport was required to do to meet regulatory standards and will result in no commercial return and for that reason it is looking for access to the Government's Regional Airports Programme.

The fund provides government support to airports like Knock, Kerry and Waterford. 

As Dublin, Cork and Shannon are the top three airports in Ireland they are not part of the fund.

Shannon wants that to change and points to EU rules which state that airports with less than three million passengers a year can qualify. 

Last year Shannon recorded 1.7 million passengers.

According to Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine "it would allow us to use those limited resources towards route development".

Shannon reached peak passenger numbers of 3.3m in 2005 and there is concern that the airport is conceding that it would ever reach that figure again. 

"I think what's important is not so much the figure, it's the quality of the routes. So what we need are routes into the vital markets to support business and tourism", said Ms Considine.

Mr Ross said both he and the Department of Transport were giving the proposal serious consideration.

"I was looking at it and I'm sure this Minister [Eamon Ryan] will be looking as well because it seems a bit unfair", he said. 

Shannon Airport's presence in the midwest has facilitated the growth of business and tourism.

The implications of its stagnation is a significant concern for many, including Dr Catriona Cahill, chief economist with Limerick Chamber. 

She said the airport is supporting up to 15,000 direct and indirect jobs, "but if take a step back and you look at how those individuals spend their money in the economy...Shannon supports in the region of about 45,000 jobs and has a contribution to the economy of about 3.6 billion". 

Balanced aviation policy is the long-term ambition for many stakeholders. 

A report by Copenhagen Economics last year found that there is a strong link between aviation policy and economic development. 

Stakeholders have pointed to Dublin's success, with the capital's airport welcoming 33 million passengers last year compared to Shannon's 1.7 million. 

Shannon Airport has terminal capacity for 4.5 million people.