Grave concern has been expressed that Aer Lingus will axe transatlantic services from Shannon and relocate aircraft to the UK.
Clare Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley said on social media yesterday: “Very worrying rumours from my sources in Aer Lingus – possible relocation of aircraft from Shannon to UK airports – which would impact connectivity to the UK and US from Shannon.”
Today, the Irish Times is reporting that “Aer Lingus may shift transatlantic services from Shannon to the UK as it continues to grapple with Government Covid-19 travel restrictions.”
The paper says that six UK airports are interested in securing two aircraft that Aer Lingus use to operate routes to New York and Boston from Shannon. However, if the planes are relocated to other airports in the UK, it would be a devastating blow to tourism to the entire west of Ireland.
The move, if it happens, could also place the future of US pre-clearance facility at Shannon in doubt. Travellers can avail of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) services at Shannon which will allow them arrive in the US as domestic passengers and eliminating often lengthy queues.
It has already been confirmed that British Airways will no longer require use of the facility after it axed its daily London City to New York business class only service which stopped at Shannon.
The carrier uses two Airbus A321neo aircraft on the routes from the mid-west airport. Both planes are however grounded as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic with Aer Lingus operating no services at all from Shannon at present.
Independent TD for Clare Michael McNamara The Government should consider seeking an equity share in Aer Lingus (as Germany has done in Lufthansa) in return for a guarantee of regional connectivity. It is now sadly clear that the State should have retained a shareholding.”
When he was a Labour TD Deputy McNamara lost the party whip when he voted against the government over the sale of the government’s stake in Aer Lingus.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe is calling on Aer Lingus management to clarify their future commitment to flying to and from Shannon Airport.
“I have spoken with the Taoiseach about the need to protect Shannon Airport and ensure it remains solvent throughout the bleak months ahead.
All efforts must now be made to get the Heathrow flight, above all others, operational again. This offers quality connectivity to the UK and in turn to continental Europe and beyond and will be key to getting Shannon Airport back on its feet,” Deputy Crowe said.
Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey has warned of a massive public backlash if Aer Lingus attempts to transfer its transatlantic services to the UK.
“Any moves to switch Aer Lingus’ transatlantic services to the UK would have very stark consequences for Shannon and the entire Mid-West and Western regions. I understand the challenges for the airline in the Covid landscape are stark, but the airline cannot simply abandon the region and its employees in Shannon.
Meanwhile, last night, the North Clare Labour Party held a virtual meeting to discuss the problems affecting Aer Lingus and Shannon Airport. The meeting agreed that Aer Lingus should be re-nationalised and returned to the Irish State control.
A spokesman said after the meeting: “The Irish Government Coalition should enter into urgent negotiations with British Airways/IAG to realise this urgent necessity. Ireland is an island nation and requires connectivity with the outside world. Connectivity is essential for tourism, trade, agriculture, multi-national companies based in Ireland, Irish expatriates living overseas and our immigrant community living in Ireland.
Shannon Airport depends on connectivity with the world including North America, Britain and Europe. Shannon should return to normality with the return of Aer Lingus flights,” the spokesman added.
A Shannon Group spokesperson said: “Shannon Group is in ongoing discussions with Aer Lingus regarding the resumption of its Heathrow and transatlantic operations. These long established services have been hugely successful and their resumption is critical for business and tourism across western and southern regions.
These and other services have been suspended due to advice against non-essential travel and their resumption is among the key recommendations of the Taskforce for Aviation recovery, which included a call for a stimulus package for airports in the regions to encourage the rebuilding of traffic.
The findings of this report must be implemented urgently so that these services are underpinned and we can begin the recovery with our airlines partners in line with Government objectives on re-building connectivity and capacity in the regions.”
Currently, it is possible to book flights to both New York and Boston from Shannon from late October.
Just last month, Aer Lingus issued a stark warning on the future of its Shannon operation telling workers there’s no sign of any meaningful resumption of operations from Shannon.
A communication from Aer Lingus CEO Seán Doyle to airline workers at Shannon said: “We have no line of sight on any meaningful resumption of operations out of either Cork or Shannon airports. As such we are reviewing the scale of our flying programme from these airports and the ongoing viability of our regional bases there. This is a very challenging situation for everybody, these decisions will not be taken lightly but I can assure you that the additional steps that we are now undertaking will be necessary and critical to position Aer Lingus for future recovery.
Very worrying rumours from my sources in Aer Lingus – possible relocation of Aircraft from Shannon to UK airports – which would impact connectivity to the UK and US from Shannon. @GavinGrace @ClareFM @ClareChampion @theclareherald @ClareEcho pic.twitter.com/QCR5fckBVv
— Timmy Dooley (@timmydooley) August 30, 2020