FEARS that Are Lingus may pull out of its base at Shannon entirely, shedding jobs, have been blamed on Covid-19 and the Government’s “shambolic” failure to come up with an aviation policy despite calls being made year-on-year.
And business leaders with Limerick Chamber of Commerce have called on Government to immediately put supports in place for Shannon and Cork airports and to embark on the development of the “long overdue aviation policy that will have balanced regional development at its core.”
Chamber CEO Dee Ryan said that if the review underway by Aer Lingus in relation to its Shannon and Cork operations impacts on the bases there or even the withdrawal of some services, it will be a devastating blow for the economy of the west and south.
“Direct connectivity to the regions has been cited by all major foreign direct investors as a key decision maker for them in terms of their commitment to invest in this region. Daily US as well as international hub connectivity through Heathrow are critical for enabling the mid west and west to compete on a European scale so anything that would jeopardise this has to be averted,” she said.
“We don’t want to pre-empt the outcome of the review, but we do want to send a very clear signal to Aer Lingus that their services here will be fully supported when anything close to normality returns. The airport and region have made a lot of revenue for the airline, with very high yields and huge loyalty over the decades.”
Beyond this, she said, the review now being undertaken by the airline is yet another reminder of the huge imbalance in national aviation.
“The news relates to Shannon and Cork, but not Dublin. Long before Covid-19, we have been warning about the destructive impact that Dublin Airport has on other Irish airports,” she said.
Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan has called on the Government and the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan to bring forward proposals on how the State will assist the aviation sector; one of the industries hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
His comments come as pilots at Aer Lingus have expressed their deep concern over the future of the airline within the IAG group and have warned that it may be sacrificed to keep other major airlines in the conglomerate afloat.
Deputy Quinlivan said, “Despite being five months to the day since the first case of Covid-19 was recorded in the State, we still have no comprehensive plan for international travel or for the aviation sector.
“The Government’s handling of foreign travel advice to the public has been shambolic. We are checking people’s social welfare status, but not for Covid-19 in our airports. All the while, thousands of workers in the aviation industry are fearing for their positions, with the Government yet to put a plan in place for the sector.
Are Lingus last month announced it is to cut up to 500 jobs due to the collapse in aviation traffic during the Covid-19 crisis, and it is no secret that its operations at Shannon and Cork could be severely hit or wiped out.
In a statement the airline said the crisis was having a catastrophic effect on the aviation industry, and that the company is currently operating less than 5 per cent of its normal schedule.