Stark warnings for the future of both Shannon and Cork Airport were voiced by leading airline officials on Wednesday.
Neither Aer Lingus or Ryanair will be reopening their bases at Shannon Airport in 2021 at the earliest, unless restrictions are eased, both airlines have stated.
Speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Transport Committee, Ryanir chief executive Eddie Wilson revealed there was a “reasonable chance” that the airline would never reopen its bases at Shannon and Cork Airports and believed that their initial closures could have been minimised.
Wilson criticised the approach of NPHET in responding to the pandemic. He claimed they have made the wrong calls when it came to nursing homes, meat factories, face coverings and international travel.
Aer Lingus told the committee meeting that they were unlikely to change their approach at Shannon Airport before next February. Much of the airline’s fleet is currently being put in storage in Spain.
Donal Moriarity, chief corporate affairs officer with Aer Lingus said they had planned to recommence Shannon to Heathrow in December but that will now not go ahead. He said it is now hoped that route along with Shannon-Boston, and Shannon-JFK will resume in April but acknowledged that was dependent on a significant easing of restrictions.
CEO of Shannon Group, Mary Considine described Ryanair’s decision to temporarily halt all flights from Shannon and Cork as “extremely disappointing”. She called for an urgent financial lifeline for Shannon Airport and a support package for the aviation sector in the National Economic Plan to be announced next month.
It means Shannon Airport will be without scheduled services for a month. “As an Island nation, aviation is a crucial part of our economy and therefore our economic recovery. The industry is in a crisis not witnessed in our lifetime. If it is to revive and recover, the aviation sector needs a financial lifeline to resuscitate it. The National Economic Plan is due to be published next month and we would hope that it will provide the vital financial support for this ailing sector.
“In the absence of a vaccine, the new European Traffic Light system, presents a glimmer of hope, supported by common approach to testing. Once testing protocols are agreed we will be ready to roll out testing at the airport and believe it will be an important element in restoring public confidence to travel again,” Mary added.
She confirmed that Shannon Airport will remain open to service cargo, general aviation, transit business and to facilitate hangar movements.
In a statement to The Clare Echo, Deputy Cathal Crowe (FF) noted that the inability for either airline to express long-term commitments for Shannon was a serious blow. “We were under the understanding that there was a glimmer of hope that we would see these iconic planes back up in the sky over Shannon but now, we know that will not be the case”.
“Those who depend on that vital link to Heathrow, one of the great airports of the continent, will be devastated. It’s a huge blow to Ryanair and Aer Lingus workers, to Shannon workers and to all of us here in the Shannon region and across the Midwest,” the Meelick native added.