Aer Lingus may shift transatlantic services from Shannon to the UK as it continues to grapple with Government Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The Irish airline has two Airbus A321 long-range craft based at Shannon, normally used to fly from there to Boston, New York and London Heathrow, but which have been grounded since March.
It emerged at the weekend that Edinburgh and Manchester are among six UK regional airports now bidding have to these craft based with them to provide flights to the US.
Both are understood to have expressed interest a deal to take the craft some weeks ago, although neither yet has an agreement with the Irish carrier.
Four other UK airports are in the running. While local sources have not named them, they are all said to be regional gateways.
Any service is likely to begin in 2021 and run for an initial three years. Aer Lingus pilots and crew would staff the flights.
It is understood that Aer Lingus sought tenders for the mothballed craft three weeks ago from UK regional airports, which have since responded to the company’s request.
The loss of Aer Lingus transatlantic flights would be a blow to Shannon Airport and the west of Ireland, which depends heavily on tourism and multinational investment.
It could potentially leave Shannon with just one US service, flown by American Airlines, next year. Other carriers, Delta and United Airlines have already confirmed that they will not resume flights from the Irish airport in 2021.
If Aer Lingus moves the A321s to the UK, the carrier could still base other craft at Shannon next year, restoring the US and Heathrow services, if commercial conditions allowed.
A spokesman for Shannon Group said the State company was in talks with Aer Lingus about resuming the airport's transatlantic and Heathrow flights.
He stressed that these services were “ critical” to business and tourism in the west and south.
"These and other services have been suspended due to advice against non-essential travel and their resumption is among the key recommendations of the Taskforce for Aviation Recovery, which included a call for a stimulus package for airports in the regions to encourage the rebuilding of traffic," the spokesman said.
Shannon Group has joined the rest of the air travel industry in calling on the Government to implement these recommendations urgently.
Covid-19 and subsequent Government travel restrictions have left Shannon and all other Irish airports with just a fraction of their normal passenger numbers.
Aer Lingus has told the Government it may have to cut up to 500 jobs, from a total of 4,500, as it deals with the ongoing impact of Covid-19 travel restrictions on air travel.
The airline is one of several that have pointed out that the Government’s current restrictions are stalling its efforts to begin recovering from pandemic’s impact.
Those rules are among Europe’s toughest and require anyone arriving from countries not on a limited list that excludes the UK and much of the EU to self-isolate for 14 days.
Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus chief executive, recently told the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response that the airline wants the Government to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Aviation Recovery.
Ryanair, Europe's biggest airline, has consistently called for the Government to include UK, Germany and the rest of the EU on the so-called "green list".
The Irish-based giant points out that the list excludes many EU states with lower virus infection rates than the Republic, while the restrictions have failed to curb recent Covid-19 spikes here.