Thousands back petition demanding State aid for Aer Lingus

Airline workers fear winter shutdown as Government persists with travel restrictions

Aer Lingus chief executive Sean Doyle has said that he cannot  rule out compulsory job losses. Photograph: Alan Betson

Aer Lingus chief executive Sean Doyle has said that he cannot rule out compulsory job losses. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Thousands of people are backing a petition launched by Aer Lingus workers who fear for their jobs, calling on the Government to aid the airline.

People’s unwillingness to travel in the face of State Covid-19 restrictions has left Aer Lingus workers fearing the airline could effectively halt operations for the winter and lay many of them off.

Pilots and other workers launched an online petition over the weekend, calling on the Government to support Aer Lingus financially if it is not willing to drop its advice against “non-essential” travel.

“If it doesn’t this Government will go down in history as the one that presided over the wind-up of Aer Lingus,” the petition warns.

“Since the emergence of Covid-19 we have been operating under the most stringent travel restrictions in Europe. At the same time we are the only major European carrier not to have received any State assistance.

“The demise of Aer Lingus, and the consequent loss of thousands of jobs, would be nothing short of a national tragedy,” it says.

More than 8,000 people have already signed the petition.

Aer Lingus chief executive Sean Doyle, speaking to staff on Friday, said he could not rule out compulsory job losses. The airline is in talks with unions, including Siptu, the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association and Fórsa, about cutting 500 of its 4,500 jobs.

The petition’s organisers say the airline staff believe they could face a worst-case scenario over the winter, the slowest period for airlines.

“If you look at what’s happened in Cork and Shannon, they have stopped flying from those places,” said one. “If there are no forward bookings they could furlough everybody for a few months while they wait this out.”

Government travel advice and restrictions are deterring Irish people from flying, the petition authors say.

They also note that the policy is prompting “shaming” of Irish people who do travel from those that do not.

Most of the airline’s 700 pilots have written 30 letters each to TDs pressing for aid for the airline.

Support

The people behind the petition point out that British Airways and Spain’s Iberia – both part of International Consolidated Airlines’ Group (IAG) along with Aer Lingus – are getting support from their governments.

The petition notes that as an island nation the Republic relies on air travel more than most countries.

“When this pandemic is over, or at least sufficiently mitigated, hundreds of thousands of jobs in Ireland will depend on this connectivity,” it says.

Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive, last week warned that the carrier would be a smaller, slower-growing company if Government travel restrictions persisted. However, he dismissed speculation that the carrier could be wound up.

Aer Lingus did not comment on the petition on Sunday.

A video accompanying the petition – We Are Aer Lingus, with music donated by Irish artist Lyra – shows that all staff, from pilots and cabin crew to ground crew, engineers and others, support the move.