Clare Fine Gael TD Pat Breen has received assurances from Aer Lingus that it will maintain its existing routes out of Shannon Airport.
Breen the Minister of State for Employment and Small Business held a meeting with senior representatives of Aer Lingus in his Dublin offices on Wednesday afternoon, the TD has informed The Clare Herald of the key talking points from this engagement.
During their discussions Pat pressed upon the need for Aer Lingus’ parent company IAG to uphold its promise to strengthen its relationship with Shannon. He highlighted his concerned about the potential effect of negative publicity in relation to the airline’s Shannon service, and the way passengers from the airport were severely inconvenienced in recent weeks.
This was referring to the cancellation by the airline of more than twenty of its Shannon flights earlier this month with little or no notice to customers. In the course of the meeting, Breen asked if an alternative solution could have been found, such as passengers being directed through another route or facilitated through another airline, even if that airline was a competitor.
Executives of Aer Lingus explained that on October 6th in Orlando, a small fire broke out which resulted in smoke damage putting the aircraft out of commission for two weeks. The following week another aircraft required engine maintenance which meant two aircraft were out of commission at the same time. An analysis based on lowest passenger numbers was required so the fewest passengers were disrupted and making it more likely to transfer them to other flights, according to the airline.
He then asked whether it was possible to use BA or IAG aircraft, and was told the most efficient way is usually to reroute passengers to Dublin. Aer Lingus try to accommodate passengers on their own aircraft and the executives stressed that flights from the capital were also disrupted.
“There are four flights from Dublin to New York, so I asked why one of these could not have been used from Shannon but was told due to passenger numbers this would have caused more disruption,” the Clare TD said.
Aer Lingus explained that having two aircraft out of commission at the same time was an unforeseen set of circumstances but one that is highly unlikely to occur in the future and offered their assurances that they plan to maintain the Shannon routes.
Breen felt the PR was poorly managed by the country’s second largest airline. “Aer Lingus said if they had warning of the disruption the situation would have been handled in a different way and lessons had been learnt. I noted that the reassurance was welcome but that the PR was handled badly and that there was resulting reputational damage”. Representatives for Aer Lingus acknowledged that public relations were handled badly in this instance.
Recent job announcements by Foreign Direct Investment companies into the Mid-West in the past weeks have been a boost for the region, the Fine Gael member spoke of the importance of Shannon Airport in maintaining jobs for the area and urged the executives to build on their relationship with the airport.
“I explained that while part of the attraction to FDIs is the nearby third level institutions, the airport was a deciding factor for foreign investors. While the airline is a commercial entity, there are opportunities in the region. I therefore pressed upon Aer Lingus the need to strengthened its relationship with Shannon,” he concluded.