Aer Lingus meeting with Oireachtas committee stalled following row

Airline’s chief executive Lynne Embleton to face transport committee later this month

Committee members want to quiz Aer Lingus  on plans to close its Shannon Airport base, with the potential loss of 126 jobs, and temporarily lay off staff at Cork in the autumn, while work goes ahead on the runway there. Photograph: Collins

Committee members want to quiz Aer Lingus on plans to close its Shannon Airport base, with the potential loss of 126 jobs, and temporarily lay off staff at Cork in the autumn, while work goes ahead on the runway there. Photograph: Collins

 

Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton will face politicians later this month after a row stalled a meeting between the airline and an Oireachtas committee.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications Networks postponed a meeting with Aer Lingus corporate affairs chief Donal Moriarty on Wednesday, after members demanded that Ms Embleton appear.

The airline confirmed subsequently that its recently appointed chief executive would appear before the committee on a date both sides agree. That is thought likely to be later this month.

Members want to quiz the airline on plans to close its Shannon Airport base, with the potential loss of 126 jobs, and temporarily lay off staff at Cork in the autumn, while work goes ahead on the runway there.

Aer Lingus said the committee last week asked for Ms Embleton or a representative to appear on Wednesday.

The company nominated chief corporate affairs officer Mr Moriarty as Ms Embleton was not available.

“The Aer Lingus representative was available to appear today as requested to discuss the substance of the issues of concern to the committee and had submitted an opening statement on these issues,” an airline statement said.

“The committee has now informed Aer Lingus that it does not wish to hear from the nominated representative and has asked that the Aer Lingus chief executive officer appear.”

Mutually agreeable date

The company added that while this was not possible on Wednesday, it would work to find a mutually agreeable date for such a meeting.

It is understood the committee contacted Aer Lingus late on Tuesday afternoon to ask that Ms Embleton appear, but the airline said that other work commitments meant she was not available.

Committee member Cathal Crowe, Fianna Fáil TD for Clare, remarked that it was an “affront” to the Oireachtas, taxpayers and workers that Ms Embleton was not appearing.

Mr Crowe is one of five members from Shannon’s hinterland of a total of 14 TDs and Senators on the committee, including its chairman, Fine Gael Limerick TD Kieran O’Donnell.

The others are Fine Gael Clare TD Joe Carey, Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley, both from Clare, and Tipperary independent Michael Lowry.

Its last two debates have focused heavily on the Aer Lingus decision to close its cabin crew base at Shannon.

Members fear the move could spell the end for key services from there to Britain and the US.

However, the airline has said that it would operate flights from there should market conditions allow.

Mr Moriarty was due to confirm to the committee that the airline would not be reversing the decision to close the base. Aer Lingus has not flown commercially from Shannon since April 2020.

He would also have a repeated a warning that Government Covid-19 travel restrictions were costing Aer Lingus €1 million a day while they remained in place until July 19th.

Reviewing

The airline is reviewing ground handling operations at Cork and Shannon while it is seeking further job cuts from among its 4,400 workers.

Had Covid-19 not struck last year, Aer Lingus would have had more than 6,000 staff on its payroll, including temporary workers and contractors.

The airline has welcomed Government plans to begin reopening travel on July 19th, including a pledge to adopt the EU digital Covid-19 certificates, meant to restore freedom of movement.

Meanwhile, Mr Dooley called on the Government to take a stake in Aer Lingus, owned by International Airlines Group, to protect important routes to the regions.

He argued that €150 million from the State-backed Irish Strategic Investment Fund should be converted to shares.