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Action needed to preserve Aer Lingus’ future at Shannon Airport

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Aer Lingus will need to be subsidised if it is to have a future at Shannon Airport, a leading travel expert has affirmed.

At the weekend, Aer Lingus announced plans to lay off 500 staff on top of temporary departures and pay cuts. Shannon Airport will be impacted as a result with temporary lay-offs of staff already in place until September. Cabin crew voted 75% to 25% to reject proposals that would see sweeping changes in their working conditions, on Monday.

Travel expert, Eoghan Corry told The Clare Echo that the prospects of Aer Lingus staying in Shannon appear to be slim. “It’s very hard to see Aer Lingus staying there without it being subsidised or without big support”.

He stated, “Very often an airline which has traditionally or historically associated with an airport has the most difficulty making any money out of it, you see it with Alitalia and Iberia, work practices and historic legacy negotiations landed with costs make it much more difficult for them to compete with a newcomer airline even at the same airport. We saw that very much when Ryanair was able to run London services with airport charges which were one eighth of what Aer Lingus were paying, that is a pure laissez faire aviation argument”.

Consideration must be given to the importance of presence of the national flag carrier airline in Shannon. “The big case for Shannon is the social impact of having someone like Aer Lingus outweighed the actual profit and loss pure view of the airline itself. If you are going to have a privatised airline which is Aer Lingus is, the way around it is for the local interests and the political interest to say how much is it worth for us to have the airline here and to what extent must we de-risk it and subsidise it”.

Clare TDs have criticised the actions, “Management at Aer Lingus has been cavalier with Shannon staff,” Cathal Crowe (FF) commented. “The process appears not to be ‘last in, first out’, but rather a targeting of Shannon-based staff,” the Meelick native added.

Although she acknowledged the impact of COVID-19, Violet-Anne Wynne (SF) maintained the Irish Government took “a complete hands-off approach” to dealing with the airline and accused Transport Minister Shane Ross (IND) of already leaving the role, “He has done nothing to address the escalating crisis in Clare”.

Wynne continued, “The Fine Gael/Labour government should never have sold off the State’s remaining shares in Aer Lingus in 2015, and unfortunately the consequences of this can now be seen at Shannon. This week a report from the House of Commons Transport Committee called IAG’s treatment of workers at British Airways a ‘national disgrace’. The very same can be said for IAG’s treatment of workers at Shannon Airport”.

She referred to IAG’s operating profits of €3.2bn last year and was adamant COVID-19 could not be used as “a cover to slash the pay and conditions of workers at Aer Lingus”.

Violet-Anne concluded, “The Irish government has given Aer Lingus substantial financial assistance through the Wage Subsidy Scheme and also with contracts to deliver to Shannon PPE from China. The government here also continues to hold a share interest in Aer Lingus relating to landing slots. The government need to intervene in this situation and use their influence to protect Shannon Airport workers, their jobs and their pay and conditions”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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