Aer Arann Islands wins reprieve from Government

Company asked to extend Aran Islands contract after cancellation of tender

An Aer Arann aircraft. File  photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

An Aer Arann aircraft. File photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

A reprieve for the threatened fixed wing air service to the Aran islands moved a step closer on Monday, following talks between Aer Arann Islands and the Department of the Gaeltacht.

The department has asked the airline to extend its existing contract, which was due to end at midnight on Wednesday, September 30th.

This request follows last week’s decision by Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Joe McHugh to cancel the controversial tender that would have awarded a contract to service the islands for four years to Executive Helicopters, flying from Galway Airport, in place of the Aer Arann Islands service from Inverin in Connemara.

Aer Arann Islands had put its 40 staff on protective notice, and had already initiated a High Court appeal over the tender.

It is understood that the company is seeking a year’s extension to the existing public service obligation contract.

This would allow it to provide an interim service, while the department initiates a new tender procedure.

‘Positive’ talks

A spokesman for Aer Arann Islands said that Monday’s talks had been “positive” and a further meeting would be held on Tuesday.

Executive Helicopters said it is “very disappointed” with Mr McHugh’s decision, which it attributed to the “uncertainty over the future use of Galway Airport for commercial aviation purposes after December 2015”.

The Save Our Air Service (SOS) committee on the Aran islands has also requested a central role in the new tendering arrangements, and a complete review of the department’s islands policy.