Aer Lingus’ meeting with Oireachtas committee stalled after row
Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton will face politicians later this month after an argument blocked a meeting between the airline and an Oireachtas committee.
The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transportation and Communications Networks postponed a meeting with Aer Lingus chief general officer Donal Moriarty on Wednesday after members demanded Ms Embleton to appear.
The airline later confirmed that its newly appointed chief executive would appear before the committee on a date mutually agreed upon. We believe it will likely be later this month.
Members want to ask the airline about plans to close its base at Shannon Airport, with the potential loss of 126 jobs, and to temporarily lay off staff in Cork in the fall, while work continues on Track.
Aer Lingus said the committee last week asked Ms Embleton or a representative to appear on Wednesday.
The company appointed Mr. Moriarty, director of corporate affairs, as Ms. Embleton was not available.
“The representative of Aer Lingus was available to appear today as requested to discuss the substance of the issues of concern to the committee and had submitted an opening statement on these issues,” said a statement from the airline.
“The committee has now informed Aer Lingus that it does not wish to hear from the appointed representative and has requested that the CEO of Aer Lingus appear.”
Mutually acceptable date
The company added that even if that was not possible on Wednesday, it would work to find a mutually acceptable date for such a meeting.
It is understood that the committee contacted Aer Lingus late Tuesday afternoon to ask Ms Embleton to appear, but the airline said other work commitments meant she was unavailable.
Committee member Cathal Crowe, Fianna Fáil TD for Clare, noted that Ms. Embleton’s not appearing was an “affront” to the Oireachtas, taxpayers and workers.
Mr Crowe is one of five Shannon backcountry members out of a total of 14 TD and senators on the committee, including its chairman, Fine Gael Limerick TD Kieran O’Donnell.
The others are Fine Gael Clare TD Joe Carey, Senator Fianna Fáil Timmy Dooley, both of Clare, and Tipperary Independent Michael Lowry.
Its last two debates have focused heavily on Aer Lingus’ decision to close its cabin crew base in Shannon.
Members fear the move could spell the end of key services from there to Britain and the United States.
However, the airline said it would operate flights from there if market conditions permitted.
Mr. Moriarty was to confirm to the committee that the airline would not reverse the decision to close the base. Aer Lingus has not operated commercial flights from Shannon since April 2020.
He would also have a repeated warning that the government’s Covid-19 travel restrictions were costing Aer Lingus € 1million per day as they remained in place until July 19.
The airline is reviewing ground handling operations in Cork and Shannon while seeking further job cuts among its 4,400 employees.
Had Covid-19 not struck last year, Aer Lingus would have had more than 6,000 employees on its payroll, including temporary workers and contractors.
The airline praised the government’s plans to start reopening travel on July 19, including a commitment to adopt the EU’s Covid-19 digital certificates, intended to restore freedom of movement.
Meanwhile, Dooley called on the government to take a stake in Aer Lingus, owned by International Airlines Group, to protect important routes to the regions.
He argued that 150 million euros from the state-backed Irish Strategic Investment Fund should be converted into shares.