THERE has been widespread concern about the announcement by Ryanair that it is to suspend it’s Winter schedule out of Shannon and Cork.
The announcement, made on Thursday, will be a severe bow to the two regions and workers are facing huge loss of income.
Ryanair is blaming the Government’s restrictions in relation to Covid and travel for a massive fall-off in bookings.
But the airline boss Michael O’Leary, says they will manage the cutback with unpaid leave rather than job losses.
“While we deeply regret these winter schedule cuts they have been forced upon us by Government mismanagement of EU air travel,” said the Ryanair CEO.
“Our focus continues to be on maintaining as large a schedule as we can sensibly operate to keep our aircraft, our pilots and our cabin crew current and employed while minimising job losses,” he said.
“It is inevitable, given the scale of these cutbacks, that we will be implementing more unpaid leave, and job sharing this winter in those bases where we have agreed reduced working time and pay, but this is a better short term outcome than mass job losses,” he added.
Commenting on the announcement by Ryanair of their intention to temporarily close their Shannon Airport base for Winter, Mary Considine, CEO of Shannon Group said: “This is very disappointing news not only for Shannon based Ryanair employees and all our airport team, but for the whole region who rely on the services that Ryanair provide. We have done everything in our power to retain the base.
“In July, Ryanair resumed services to 16 destinations from Shannon, and as a result of today’s announcement this will see their operation at Shannon reduced to 8 flights serving Stansted, Manchester and Wroclaw for the winter period.
“The aviation industry is on its knees with further flight restrictions being imposed in EU countries as the virus rates increase. What we need now is a clear pathway to recovery for aviation. We had hoped that it would start with a harmonised EU traffic light system. While this was endorsed by Ireland, the measures proposed fall short of what the industry requires. This urgently needs to be addressed and supported by a testing regime at airports to restore confidence and get aviation moving safely again.
“While we know recovery will take time, it is important that we plan now for the safe restoration of air services and we need to see the full implementation of the Aviation Recovery Taskforce recommendations. As an Island nation, the aviation industry is vital for Ireland. It needs to be protected and supported and we would hope this will be provided for in the National Economic Plan to be published next month,” said Ms. Considine.
Fórsa trade union has said the winter closure of Ryanair bases has struck a devastating blow for crew and pilots at these bases, their families and communities, as well as for other airport staff and the economies of both regions.
Ian Mc Donnell, the Fórsa official representing pilots at Ryanair, has expressed disappointment that the airline’s management did not make contact and allow for proper time to engage with the union before making the decision.
“The union’s mission since the pandemic struck the country in March has been to worked closely with all aviation employers, including Ryanair, in order to maximise job protection.
“Fórsa has called on the Government to intervene to support the industry because Ireland’s connectivity through aviation is crucial to its economy. The industry supports quality jobs throughout the country,” he said.
Ashley Connolly, Fórsa’s cabin crew industrial official said: “Despite the publication of the biggest budget spend in the history of the state this week, there were no additional supports for the aviation industry.
“Arguably, the absence of any additional supports made these closures inevitable, and it remains unclear if any support is coming. Either way, it’s too late now for the Ryanair pilots and crew in Cork and Shannon,” she said.
The Shannon branch of the Irish Hotels Federation has expressed its deep disappointment and concern at the announcement.
Dermot Kelly, Chairperson of the Shannon branch said that air access is vital for tourism recovery. “Every effort must be made to ensure the return of all Ryanair routes next spring and to safeguard the existing routes at the airport over the coming months. This is essential to avoid the risk of long-term damage to the tourism industry and the wider economy across Limerick, Clare, Tipperary and Galway,” he said.
Mr Kelly cited the Government’s failure to recognise the aviation sector in the budget as a major contributing factor to Ryanair’s decision, together with its failure to implement the recommendations of the its Aviation Recovery Taskforce.
“As a gateway to the region, Shannon Airport is a vital component of our tourism infrastructure. On behalf of IHF members across the Mid-West, I appeal to Government to ensure that Shannon Airport is provided with the targeted policy and financial supports required to ensure it continues to provide air access to key international markets.”
Reacting to the news Independent TD Michael McNamara has said the Government needs to introduce a system of rapid testing at airports in the short term and must also develop a new State aviation policy to ensure international transit carriers do not fly exclusively into Dublin.
“While I understand that Ryanair will continue to operate some scheduled services to and from Shannon over the winter period, the direct impact on 55 Ryanair workers and affiliated businesses across the West of Ireland is profound,” said Deputy McNamara.
A statement on behalf of the Department of Transport, said, ”
The government recognises that today’s news will be a blow to Ryanair staff, other affected workers and the airports and regions involved. The Government is fully alert to the devastating impact the global pandemic has had on international travel and appreciates and acknowledges the important role of Ryanair and Shannon and Cork Airports to the economies of the Midwest and South regions respectively.
The government has agreed to adopt the EU “traffic light” system for international travel and a decision on implementation is expected at a Cabinet meeting next week.
The government is committed to the survival and recovery of the sector, including Shannon and Cork Airports, and has already indicated that further Covid Support funding will be made available to safeguard strategic connectivity and resilience into the future.
Budget 2021 already includes a provision of €10m to address challenges facing Cork and Shannon Airports. This is in addition to €6.1m in emergency funding provided to Shannon Airport in June this year to complete a safety and security project.
Airports generally as well as the airlines will of course continue will to benefit from the economy-wide support measures that are open to all sectors – notably wage supports and tax deferrals.”
“Shannon and those who rely on it for connectivity need the introduction of testing just as many airports across Europe have implemented to enable their aviation sector to function,” he added. “We have a larger aviation sector than most other European countries and we are more reliant on-air connectivity than most other States, yet our Government has introduced policies that have compounded the issues the sector is experiencing. The wider implications of these policies are having a significant impact on our broader economy, for Foreign Direct Investment and for tourism.
“Funding received from central Government can never compensate for a lack of a balanced aviation policy, as I have argued for repeatedly in Dáil Eireann since the introduction of restrictions on our aviation sector. Shannon needs a leg-up from the next Government more than it needs a hand-out.
“Changes to national aviation policy, which would ensure carriers do not fly exclusively into Dublin, must be matched with the necessary funding. Furthermore, testing protocols should be agreed at all Irish airports to satisfy the requirements of destination airports. Furthermore, Ireland must sign up to the EU-wide traffic light system, which will see regions being marked green, orange, or red depending on their rate of Covid-19 cases.
“I, along with a group of 18 other Independents TDs from across the West of Ireland, will meet with the Taoiseach, Minister for Transport and airline representatives to demand these changes,” concluded Deputy McNamara.