Aer Lingus is warning of further job cuts after announcing the closure of its Shannon Airport base with the potential loss of up to 130 workers.
The airline told staff on Tuesday that it intends to permanently close its Shannon Airport base where it employs 126 cabin and ground crew, following months of Government travel bans.
It will also lay off 198 crew and ground staff at Cork Airport from September to late November this year.
“Aer Lingus confirmed to staff that the airline will emerge smaller from the pandemic and there will be a requirement for redundancies,” said the company confirming Shannon’s closure.
A statement added that it has begun talks with unions including Siptu and Fórsa on immediate and structural changes as it continues to grapple with Covid-19 restrictions.
Aer Lingus warned there was potential for more lay offs. It is reviewing ground-handling needs at Cork and Shannon airports, while it will keep staff on reduced hours and pay.
The carrier will offer the 81 cabin crew at Shannon “enhanced” redundancy terms or, where feasible, transfer to Dublin Airport. About 45 ground crew already without work will remain laid off, said the airline.
No Aer Lingus pilots are based at Shannon. The closure does not mean that the airline will not restart flights from the airport in the future, but no cabin crew will be based there.
Brian Bowden, Aer Lingus chief people officer, told Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in a notice of the likely job losses that Shannon had been inefficient and out of line with the market for a significant period of time.
"Aer Lingus has suffered very significant damage as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, particularly as travel restrictions in Ireland have been more stringent than in any country in Europe, " Mr Bowden said.
His letter pointed out that the airline, part of London-based International Airlines’ Group, lost €361 million last year, followed by €103 million in the first quarter of 2021. He added that Aer Lingus could cut more jobs in Cork while it was considering reopening voluntary redundancy for Dublin staff.
The Tánaiste did not comment. Earlier he told reporters at Fine Gael’s Dublin Bay South byelection launch that non-essential travel was “against the law” and could remain so until August.
Ashley Connolly, head of Fórsa's services and enterprises division, argued that Aer Lingus might have avoided its decision had Government moved faster to support aviation and clearly indicated when air travel could restart.
“Since Covid struck, we have fought hard to maintain links between staff and their employer so that Aer Lingus and other airlines are ready to bounce back once international travel starts to resume,” she said.
“The Government needs to decide if the crisis in this vital industry is to be permanent or temporary.”
Ms Connolly added that only the State had the power to preserve international links that support hundreds of thousands of jobs
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Cabinet colleague Hildegarde Naughton confirmed that they would meet Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton on Wednesday to discuss the announcement.
Mary Considine, Shannon Group chief executive, said restoring international travel would be vital to the Republic's recovery as it emerged from the pandemic.
“Critical to this will be the urgent implementation of a clear roadmap and timelines for the restart of aviation,” she stressed.
Dee Ryan, chief executive of business group Limerick Chamber, called on the Government to begin immediate talks with Aer Lingus to explore all options to protect the base and services from Shannon.