Oireachtas to hear Aer Lingus decision to irreversibly shut down Shannon base
Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton will tell the Oireachtas transport committee on Tuesday that the airline will not reverse its decision to close its base at Shannon Airport, leaving the future of 126 jobs in question .
“We did not take the decision lightly and a turnaround will not be possible,” she said.
Ms Embleton faces questions from politicians about the collapse of Stobart Air and the airline’s planned closure of its base at Shannon Airport.
Ms Embleton will appear before the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee for the first time since taking over as head of the airline in April in a hearing delayed by a row over representation of Aer Lingus.
Members will ask him about its operation at Shannon Airport and the fallout from last week’s collapse of regional franchise operator Aer Lingus Stobart Air, which left 480 workers jobless and cast doubts on the future of public service links to Donegal and Kerry.
Aer Lingus and its sister airline, BA Cityflyer, have promised flights from Dublin and Belfast to Britain at least until the end of the summer.
Meanwhile, the Irish carrier says it is “ready” to make the state-subsidized Dublin-Kerry route and is evaluating options for Dublin-Donegal.
As for Shannon, the company’s announcement last month sparked fire from committee members in the Midwest, including Chairman Kieran O’Donnell TD, MP Cathal Crowe and Senator Timmy Dooley.
Covid travel restrictions have prompted Aer Lingus to review its ground handling operations at Cork and Shannon airports. He is in talks with unions over other possible job cuts and a reshuffle of pay scales.
The airline chief will warn the committee that Aer Lingus has lost € 1million per day as government travel restrictions remain in place.
Aer Lingus has borrowed € 150m from Ireland’s state-backed Strategic Investment Fund and Ms Embleton will remind politicians the loan must be repaid with interest.
She is ready to welcome assistance received from the Covid government wage regimes, but will caution against attaching conditions to state support.
“Such conditionality is not acceptable for Aer Lingus, anything that would impose additional inefficiency on the airline is not acceptable and would in fact have a negative impact on our ability to restore and maintain connectivity,” said she does.
Vaccination and quarantine
Aer Lingus welcomed the news that the government intends to reopen the Republic to international travel from July 19 and will adopt the EU’s Covid digital certificate, which aims to restore free movement within the Union.
However, he criticized the speed at which the Republic is reopening the joint travel zone with Britain.
Last week, the government imposed additional quarantines on unvaccinated passengers from there.
Aer Lingus initially agreed with the committee that corporate affairs director Donal Moriarty would appear before it on June 3.
However, the committee subsequently insisted that Ms Embleton appear, so the hearing with Aer Lingus was delayed until she was available.
Committee members were primarily interested in asking Aer Lingus about the Shannon shutdown and whether the plans could result in further job losses there and in Cork.
Stobart went into liquidation last week, which is likely to add to concerns politicians will raise with Ms Embleton.
Aer Lingus has lost 100 million euros in the first three months of this year, with the restrictions considered the most difficult limited air travel in Europe to and from the Republic.
Last week, the chief medical officer and senior advisor on the Covid crisis, Dr Tony Holohan, told the committee that international air travel could resume thanks to vaccination programs here and in Europe.
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