Aer Lingus to close Shannon cabin crew base

Aer Lingus to close Shannon cabin crew base

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File Photo: © Pat Flynn 2019

Aer Lingus has told staff that it plans to close its crew base at Shannon Airport.

Management hosted a Zoom meeting this afternoon and advised Shannon based crew members of the news. Aer Lingus employs 83 cabin crew in Shannon

Clare Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley has described the news as a ‘shocking decision by Aer Lingus’ and said it is “an attack on a loyal workforce who have served the company well over many years.”

A spokesperson for the Fórsa union has confirmed the representatives are meeting Aer Lingus management this afternoon.

The union said it wanted a meaningful engagement aimed at maximising job retention and getting laid off crew back to work as quickly as possible. It said it would call on the airline to prioritise redeployment over redundancy.

The company has today notified the Government that all its Shannon-based cabin crew are “in scope for redundancy,” and that it wants to reduce the Cork headcount by ten. Fórsa said it expected to hear more detail of management proposals this afternoon.

The union has also called for urgent Government action, including a bespoke aviation income support scheme, to underpin jobs and maintain the relationship between employers and employees during what is likely to be a long period of recovery.Ashley Connolly, who heads Fórsa’s Services and Enterprises Division, said today’s news might have been avoided if the Government had moved faster to implement supports for the aviation sector and give a clear roadmap on when and how international air travel would resume.

“Since Covid struck, we have fought hard to maintain links between staff and their employer so that Aer Lingus and other airlines are ready to bounce back once international travel starts to resume. The Government needs to decide if the crisis in this vital industry is to be permanent or temporary. Only the State has the power and resources to preserve Ireland’s vital international connectivity – the connectivity that supports thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs – over the coming months, and possibly years,” she said.

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Following the announcement by Aer Lingus that it intends to permanently close its Shannon Airport cabin crew base where it employs 81 cabin crew, Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Transport, Senator Timmy Dooley said it was a massive blow to the Mid-West aviation and tourism sector.

Senator Dooley said: “This is a shocking decision by Aer Lingus to close its cabin crew base at Shannon Airport- this is an attack on a loyal workforce of 81 people who have served the company well over many years.

“It is really disappointing that Aer Lingus are treating their loyal staff in such a manner. The aviation sector is facing unprecedented challenges due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government needs to do much more for the tourism and aviation sector.

I urge Aer Lingus to reconsider this decision and I endeavour to work with all stakeholders involved to find a solution,” Senator Dooley added.

Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine

Commenting on today’s announcement by Aer Lingus of their decision to permanently close its cabin crew base at Shannon Airport, Mary Considine, CEO of Shannon Group said: “Our thoughts are with the Shannon based Aer Lingus employees impacted by this decision. It is extremely disappointing news for them.

“This announcement highlights once again the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across the aviation sector here. Restoring regional connectivity and international travel will be pivotal to economic recovery as we emerge from the effects of the pandemic. Critical to this will be the urgent implementation of a clear road map and timelines for the restart of aviation.

“Aer Lingus remains a valued partner for Shannon Group, and we value our long-established and continuing relationship with the airline. We are committed to working with them and all our aviation partners on the restoration of vital services to and from Shannon Airport which are critical for business and tourism sectors,” Ms Considine added.

Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara today questioned An Taoiseach Micheal Martin about the decision of Aer Lingus to permanently close its Shannon base.

Michael McNamara commented – “This is disastrous news for Aer Lingus workers in Shannon Airport and the Mid-West region today. The pandemic has done huge damage to the aviation sector. The Irish government’s response to Covid has been unique in Europe at least, in making a bad situation worse.”

Local Sinn Féin TD Violet-Anne Wynne said: “For months Sinn Féin have been calling for a survival and recovery plan for the aviation sector. We recognise the severe impact the necessary travel restrictions have had on the sector during the pandemic and we called for extra sector specific measures to be put in place to account for this.

“The Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has taken an unacceptable hands-off approach to aviation and the Government’s lack of action is now costing even more jobs. We can’t expect smaller airports to compete with larger ones in a deregulated open arena. Shannon Airport is a vital industry in the Mid-West region and contributes massively to local employment and tourism. We can’t risk this essential industry lagging behind the other airports in the country and potentially having a detrimental impact on the region. “

“The Minister for Transport must engage with Aer Lingus immediately to try and reverse the base closures and save as many jobs as possible. Sinn Féin vigorously opposed the privatisation of Aer Lingus in 2015 by Fine Gael and Labour and we said it would cost jobs in the long run. Unfortunately, the decision to sell off this key state asset now severely weakens the Government’s hand in this situation,” Deputy Wynne added.

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Tourism and Aviation Cathal Crowe is calling for immediate state action to attempt to reverse Aer Lingus’ decision to pull out of Shannon Airport for good.

“This news is beyond devastating for all of the Aer Lingus staff who work out of the Shannon Airport base and is equally devastating for Shannon Airport and the Midwest region overall,” he said.

“Aer Lingus has a long and proud history spanning over seven decades in and out of Shannon Airport and today’s announcement by the airline puts an end to that. Without Aer Lingus flying out of Shannon, we are left with very little. In recent years, Aer Lingus’ commitment to Shannon has been questionable – at a whim they’ve moved aircraft to serve routes out of Dublin and more recently to Manchester.”

Mayor of Clare Mary Howard said: “Like everyone this afternoon I was both shocked and disappointed to hear that Aer Lingus has decided to close it’s Shannon Base.

I am thinking of the 83 cabin crew and their families who now face redundancy from July 1st or the possibility of relocating to Dublin. We now need clarity from Aer Lingus as to what its future plans are and what role Shannon will play.

We need clarity on the very busy (and profitable) Shannon – Heathrow slots and the reinstatement of the Shannon – New York & Boston routes.

We also need clarity on the status of the new routes to Paris and Barcelona that were announced prior to covid. All of these services are vital to the midwest especially in a post covid world.

Here in Co Clare we have seven Oireachtas members and I beg each one of you to put on your Clare jerseys and ensure we do not use these services,” Cllr Howard added.

Shannon Chamber

Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes: “This is very disappointing news for the Aer Lingus staff and their families and indeed for the airport, particularly against the background that, in February 2020, Aer Lingus had plans to grow its Shannon base, adding new aircraft on its transatlantic routes, and new services to Barcelona and Charles de Gaulle.

“Pre COVID-19, Shannon Airport was on a growth trajectory. Today’s news is clear evidence that the pandemic is severely impacting every airline and airport.

“Recommendations to redress this impact have been presented to Government by both the Aviation and Tourism Task Forces, by the National Civil Aviation Development Forum (NCADF) and more recently, by Shannon Chamber in conjunction with the Irish Hotels Federation with the support of Limerick, Ennis and Galway Chambers. The urgent implementation of these recommendations by Government and a timeline for their roll-out is now critical.

“Air connectivity is a critical enabler of economic growth, most particularly for an island nation where so many jobs are dependent on the aviation and tourism and hospitality sectors. Government intervention is urgently needed, most particularly a roadmap to protect route connectivity to Shannon, including Aer Lingus slots, and Ireland’s regional airports.”

Aer Lingus

In a statement, an Aer Lingus spokesperson said: On Friday 7th May, Aer Lingus issued financial results which showed that the airline lost €103 million in the first three months of 2021. This is on top of a loss of €361m in 2020.

Aer Lingus staff were today advised that the cumulative impact of the crisis over the last 15 months means immediate actions and structural changes are required at the airline. The airline must be more cost-efficient and productive in order to generate the cash required to rebuild its financial health.

Immediate actions announced today by the airline include:

– the permanent closure of the Aer Lingus cabin crew base at Shannon airport

– the temporary closure of the Aer Lingus base at Cork airport from September until late November 2021

– commencement of a review of our ground handling requirements in both Shannon and Cork airports

– the continuation of reduced working hours and associated pay reductions and lay-offs and the potential for more lay-offs.

Structural change will also be required across the business. The required structural changes will be specific to each business area but will focus primarily on the areas where there is off-market pay, terms, conditions and work practices.

Aer Lingus confirmed to staff that the airline will emerge smaller from the pandemic and there will be a requirement for redundancies.

Aer Lingus has commenced discussions with Unions representing employees in Aer Lingus regarding both the immediate and structural changes that need to be implemented,” the statement concluded.

File Photo: © Pat Flynn

The airline confirmed in March that all 129 in-flight and ground operations staff at Shannon would be placed on temporary unpaid lay-off from March 8th June 7th. This, according to Aer Lingus, could be further extended or changed based on work requirements at the Mid-West airport.

Earlier this month the Clare Herald reported that Aer Lingus will unlikely resume transatlantic services from Shannon Airport before summer 2022.

There’s also speculation about the future of the popular Aer Lingus Shannon/London Heathrow service with some suggesting that if flights resume on the route, it may not be with an aircraft that would be based at Shannon.

The airline would usually have one Airbus A320 aircraft based at Shannon to serve the London Heathrow route while a long range A321neo have been used to operate transatlantic services to New York and Boston.

The airline said at the time: “Aer Lingus is currently flying a significantly reduced schedule. The schedule for the duration of 2021, and beyond, remains under constant review.”

The airline’s full year results, published at the end of February , showed the carrier made an operating of loss of €361m in 2020. This represents the largest ever loss in the airline’s history and demonstrates the profound impact of Covid19.

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