Oireachtas to hear Aer Lingus decision to close Shannon base irreversible

Lynne Embleton will be questioned about airport closure and collapse of Stobart Air

Aer Lingus lost €100 million in the first three months of this year due to tough  air travel restrictions in and out of the Republic.

Aer Lingus lost €100 million in the first three months of this year due to tough air travel restrictions in and out of the Republic.

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Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton will tell the Oireachtas transport committee on Tuesday that the airline will not reverse its decision to close its Shannon Airport base, leaving the future of up to 126 jobs in question.

“We did not take the decision lightly and a reversal will not be possible,” she will say.

Ms Embleton faces questions from politicians on the Stobart Air collapse and the airline’s planned closure of its Shannon Airport base.

Ms Embleton will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications for the first time since she took the airline’s helm in April in a hearing delayed by a row over Aer Lingus’s representation.

Members will quiz her about its operation at Shannon Airport and the fallout from last week’s collapse of Aer Lingus regional franchise operator Stobart Air, which left 480 workers without jobs and cast doubts on the future of public-service routes to Donegal and Kerry.

Aer Lingus and its sister carrier, BA Cityflyer, have pledged fly services from Dublin and Belfast to Britain until the end of the summer at least.

Meanwhile the Irish carrier says it is “ready” to fly the State-subsidised Dublin-Kerry route and is weighing up options for Dublin-Donegal.

Covid curbs

In relation to Shannon, the company’s announcement last month drew fire from midwest committee members, including chairman Kieran O’Donnell TD, Deputy Cathal Crowe and Senator Timmy Dooley.

Covid travel curbs have prompted Aer Lingus to review its ground-handling operations in Cork and Shannon airports. It is in talks with unions about further possible job cuts and a shake-up of payscales.

The airline chief will warn the committee that Aer Lingus has been losing €1 million a day while government travel restrictions remain in place.

Aer Lingus has borrowed €150 million from the State-backed Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and Ms Embleton will remind politicians that the loan must be repaid with interest.

She is set to welcome aid received from government Covid wage schemes, but will warn against attaching any conditions to State support.

“Such conditionality is not acceptable to Aer Lingus, anything that would impose additional inefficiency on the airline is not acceptable and would in fact negatively impact upon our ability to restore and maintain connectivity,” she will say.

Vaccination and quarantine

Aer Lingus has welcomed news that the Government intends reopening the Republic to international travel from July 19th and will adopt the EU digital Covid certificate, which is meant to restore free movement in the union.

However, it has criticised the speed at which the Republic is reopening the common travel area with Britain.

Last week, the Government imposed extra quarantines on non-vaccinated passengers from there.

Aer Lingus originally agreed with the committee that chief corporate affairs officer Donal Moriarty would appear before it on June 3rd.

However, the committee subsequently insisted that Ms Embleton appear, so the hearing with Aer Lingus was delayed until she was available.

Committee members were primarily interested in questioning Aer Lingus on the Shannon closure and to establish if plans could result in further job losses there and in Cork.

Stobart went into liquidation last week, which is likely to add to the concerns that politicians will raise with Ms Embleton.

Aer Lingus lost €100 million in the first three months of this year as restrictions billed as Europe’s toughest limited air travel in and out of the Republic.

Last week, the State’s chief medical officer and leading adviser on the Covid crisis, Dr Tony Holohan, told the committee international air travel could resume on the back of vaccination programmes here and in Europe.

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