Aer Lingus to receive almost €30m for collecting PPE from China

The airline operated 259 flights over 14 weeks in largest cargo operation by air in history of the State

A series of Aer Lingus flights to China   to collect PPE supplies required for medical staff during the  Covid-19 outbreak took place between March and June. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

A series of Aer Lingus flights to China to collect PPE supplies required for medical staff during the Covid-19 outbreak took place between March and June. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

Aer Lingus is to receive almost €30 million from the Health Service Executive for the transport of vital supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to Ireland from China since March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airline operated a PPE airbridge for 14 weeks from March 29th to June 26th between Dublin and Beijing where 259 rotations between the two cities represented the largest cargo operation by air in the history of the State.

According to the HSE, Aer Lingus operated up to five flights a day over the 14 weeks and in total flew 4.75 million km and transported 35,000 cubic metres or 4,000 tonnes comprising more than 86 million pieces of PPE.

New records released in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show Aer Lingus has lodged invoices totalling €30.3 million to the HSE for the 259 flights.

The invoices show the €30.3 million includes Russian over-flight charges made to Aer Lingus of €641,814 for the use of Russian airspace during the trips.

The records show that the HSE had paid €7.2 million by the end of June to the airline and as of July 22nd, Aer Lingus had invoiced for a further €23.1 million that had not yet been paid.

The average cost per flight to the HSE was €114,751 and the average Russian overflight charge was €3,116 concerning 198 of the 259 flights.

Providing context to the spend, the HSE FOI unit stated: “The environment in which procurement activity was conducted in response to the pandemic was unprecedented. All global healthcare systems faced enormous challenges in securing PPE necessary to manage and contain the pandemic.

“As part of the pandemic response, the HSE concluded an overarching framework agreement with China Resource Pharmaceutical Group for the supply of essential PPE.

“The transportation of this PPE in a timely manner was critical and necessary to the pandemic response. The HSE agreed heads of terms with Aer Lingus, our national carrier, to open a standing air-bridge between Dublin and Beijing on a cost plus basis.

“A value for money review has been conducted by HSE and the rates proposed by Aer Lingus were considered competitive in the circumstances.”