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Irish aviation’s survival at stake, Fórsa warns

Industry will need support if Government tightens travel restrictions, trade union says

Aer Lingus is keeping its 2021 schedules under “constant review” while officials weigh introducing extra quarantines or banning travel from some regions. File photograph: Cathal McNaughton/ Reuters

Irish aviation’s survival will be at stake if the Government fails to boost aid to the industry alongside any tougher Covid-19 travel restrictions, trade union Fórsa warned on Monday.

Meanwhile, airline Aer Lingus confirmed that it was keeping its 2021 schedules under “constant review” while officials weigh introducing extra quarantines or banning travel from some regions.

Aer Lingus has been selling its summer 2021 schedule since late last year, but is flying just 15 per cent of the services that it would have offered this time two years ago.

Aer Lingus said earlier this month that it would review its plans for this year as governments stepped up curbs on travel.

Ministers are considering tightening the Republic’s already stringent restrictions, including limiting travel from virus-variant hotspots, as the State struggles with the Covid wave.

Ashley Connolly, senior official with Fórsa – which represents thousands of pilots, cabin crew and airport workers – warned that such measures would devastate an industry already reeling from the virus.

“If the proposed new measures are necessary on public-health grounds, the Government must act to ensure Ireland has a sustainable and thriving aviation industry when the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

“The very survival of this strategic industry is at stake, along with the thousands of jobs it supports across the economy.”

Support

The Government has supported airports, including allocating €10 million for Cork and Shannon airports in the budget.

Aviation workers are on wage supports or the pandemic unemployment payment if they have lost jobs as a result of the virus.

The State has not given cash to airlines based here, but has agreed to support the restart and launch of strategically important air routes.

Ms Connolly called for immediate talks with all those involved in aviation to agree measures needed to protect jobs in the industry and in those businesses that depend on it.

“Working together through a social-dialogue model would harness all the available expertise and stakeholder knowledge about how to protect our aviation infrastructure,” said Ms Connolly.

She called on the Government to implement the recommendations of the report into aviation of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Networks.

The report included calls on the State to support airports and strategically important routes that the industry fears could be lost after the pandemic subsides.

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