SHANNON Airport has suffered a massive blow with the announcement yesterday that both Ryanair and Aer Lingus are suspending their flights for the winter months. Shannon Group chief executive Mary Considine has called for an urgent financial lifeline for Shannon Airport and a support package for the aviation sector in the National Economic Plan to be announced next month.
Representatives of both airlines informed Wednesday’s meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication, that they could not commit to reopening their Shannon operations unless and until travel restrictions ease.
They said that the decision to suspend services was as a result of a collapse in bookings due to the Level Five Covid restrictions.
The shock announcement that both Ryanair and Aer Lingus are to ground their flight operations at Shannon Airport has been described as a serious blow for the Midwest region.
Confirmation of the suspension of services came at this Wednesday’s meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication, with representatives of both airlines saying that they couldn’t commit to reopening their Shannon operations unless travel restrictions ease.
Ryanair will not fly from Shannon between November 4 and December 12 at least; while Aer Lingus does not expect to operate its London Heathrow route until at least next April.
Shannon Group chief executive Mary Considine described the announcement as extremely disappointing and called for a support package for the aviation sector in the National Economic Plan to be announced next month.
“We are extremely disappointed with the news; it is a further illustration of the devastating impact of the pandemic on the aviation sector. This latest development effectively means we will have no scheduled services at Shannon for a month”.
She said that the airport would remain open to service cargo, general aviation, transit business and to facilitate hangar movements.
Meelick-based Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe, who is a member of the Oireachtas Committee said he understood there was a glimmer of hope that the airlines could retain their Shannon operations but it was clear that this would not happen.
“We have been told a large portion of it is a commercial decision, because of a lack of bookings, but that the orange and red routes in the traffic light system are quite convoluted and difficult to work out and that also played a role,” he explained.
“This is a huge blow to Shannon Airport and those who depend on that vital link to Heathrow will be devastated.
“It’s a huge blow to Ryanair and Aer Lingus workers, to Shannon workers and to all of us here in the Shannon region and across the Midwest.
“I have queried what more can be done; they have admitted it’s more commercially viable to fly in and out of Dublin because of the population base but we need to know what we can do to give Shannon it’s fair share.
“I also raised the issue of the challenges posed by the EU traffic light system for air travel.
“At the moment, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control operates a system of regional risk basis, meaning one region of Ireland could be rated green and another red.
“But almost all of Europe is rated as red with the exception of Calabria in South Italy,” Deputy Crowe added.
“To me, it looks like even though they’ve said it would be on a regional basis, it’s more like entire countries have been categorised as red.
“I made the point that based on last night’s Covid figures, the counties of Tipperary and Wicklow have seen their 14-day incidence rate drop below 150. So theoretically if they had airports, they could operate on a category green basis.
“That really needs to be hammered down and we need more clarity on the regional aspect of this plan.
“I hope to receive clarification from both the Department of Transport and the European Commission because if we have a lower incidence rate here than in Dublin, we could, in theory, be accepting flights in the Midwest – and that’s exactly what Shannon needs,” Deputy Crowe concluded.