Aer Lingus 'cannot be moved' out of hangar

 

AER LINGUS cannot be moved from the Dublin airport hangar that its rival Ryanair has been seeking as a precondition of creating 300 new aircraft maintenance jobs there.

Hangar 6 at Dublin airport has been at the centre of a row between Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary and Tánaiste Mary Coughlan since it emerged that his company offered to create 500 maintenance jobs there, but only on the condition that the Government arranged the hangar’s sale or lease to the airline.

Aer Lingus occupies Hangar 6 under a 20-year commercial lease from the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), worth €24 million, agreed last December. It can only be moved to facilitate redevelopment of the airport.

The DAA’s chief executive Declan Collier told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport yesterday that a series of legal agreements dating back to the early 1990s gives Aer Lingus control over who occupies the facility.

The authority also told the committee that Ryanair has been aware of this for two years, despite the fact that Mr O’Leary argues that there is nothing preventing the Government from instructing the DAA to move Aer Lingus. The DAA ultimately owns Hangar 6 and originally leased it to Ulster Bank subsidiary First Active, in a contract that runs to 2017.

First Active sublets it to Shinagh, an Aer Lingus subsidiary, which held the building for the old Team Aer Lingus maintenance business, which the airline sold in 1998. Shinagh subsequently sublet it on to a subsidiary of SR Technics (SRT), which ultimately acquired what had been Team Aer Lingus. SRT pulled out of Dublin early last year with the loss of 1,100 jobs.

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller also confirmed these details to the committee yesterday. When members asked him why the company was leasing it back from itself, he responded: “I ask myself the same question”.

Mr Mueller told the committee that the airline is using the hangar to maintain up to six or seven aircraft a day and is not leaving it lying idle as Mr O’Leary has claimed. It plans to move other parts of its business into the offices that form part of the building.

The DAA bought SRT’s interest in Hangar 6 last year. It said yesterday that it decided that when the “legal complexities” surrounding the building became clear, it decided that leasing the building back to Aer Lingus was the best course of action.

The DAA said that it was willing to deal with Ryanair and said that notwithstanding the legal difficulties, “it was possible that the hangar could subsequently have become available for use by Ryanair or other third parties”.

“When it became clear that Aer Lingus was not going to vacate Hangar 6, Ryanair was informed by the IDA that Aer Lingus had legal rights and the hangar would not become available,” the authority’s statement said.

It added that 365 new jobs will be created in the former SRT hangars by Aer Lingus, Dublin Aerospace and aircraft maintenance firm M50.