Potential row threatens to derail Aer Lingus appearance before Oireachtas committee

There will be ‘no reversal’ of Shannon Airport decision , airline to tell TDs and senators

Aer Lingus has borrowed €150 million from the State-backed Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, but is going through €1 million a day. Photograph: iStock

Aer Lingus has borrowed €150 million from the State-backed Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, but is going through €1 million a day. Photograph: iStock

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A potential row between Aer Lingus and an Oireachtas committee is threatening to derail a meeting where the airline will rule out reversing the planned closure of its Shannon Airport base.

Aer Lingus corporate affairs chief Donal Moriarty is due at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Networks on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing impact of Government travel curbs on the airline.

Mr Moriarty will tell TDs and senators that the carrier will not reverse its plan to permanently close its cabin crew base at Shannon, which has left a question mark over the future of 126 jobs.

However, the committee, chaired by Kieran O’Donnell TD, contacted Aer Lingus on Tuesday asking that recently-appointed chief executive, Lynn Embleton, appear.

It is understood that the airline last week responded to a request that the chief executive, or a representative, appear at the committee by saying that Mr Moriarty would be available and appear, but Ms Embleton could not attend.

The committee asked the airline that the chief executive give evidence after members met on Tuesday. However, Aer Lingus confirmed that she was not available. Sources suggested that the meeting may not proceed as scheduled on Wednesday as a result.

Aer Lingus declined to comment while no one from the Oireachtas committee was available on Tuesday night.

Reversal ‘not possible’

Mr Moriarty is due to tell the committee that despite suggestions that Aer Lingus could reverse its decision on Shannon, that will not be the case.

“There has not been a flight out of Shannon since April 2020,” he will say. “We did not take the decision lightly and a reversal will not be possible.”

Aer Lingus has welcomed Government plans announced last week to reopen international travel in July following 16 months of Covid-19 restrictions billed as the toughest in Europe.

However, the airline maintains that it will continue to burn significant sums of cash over coming weeks while curbs remain in place.

Mr Moriarty will point out that the carrier is disappointed that the Republic’s common travel area with the UK was not reopened.

Similarly, Aer Lingus is questioning why the Republic is has not approved rapid antigen testing for the virus, which the EU has endorsed.

“We are also undertaking a review of our ground handling requirements in Shannon and Cork. Reduced hours and associated pay reductions and lay-offs will also continue,” he will say.

Aer Lingus is welcoming the aid received through the Government wage support schemes.

However, its corporate affairs officer will warn against attaching any conditions to aid received by any aviation business from the State.

“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,” he will say.

Aer Lingus has borrowed €150 million from the State-backed Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, but is going through €1 million a day.

The airline will point out to politicians that the loan must be repaid with interest.