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SHANNON AIRPORT is at the mercy of Aer Lingus and IAG due to ‘political failures of the past,’ a Clare TD has said.

Aer Lingus this week cut its evening slot from Heathrow Airport to Shannon Airport in order to meet the London hub’s cap on passenger numbers.

This could potentially be the start of bigger problems, Cathal Crowe TD (FF) warned. “Whilst Aer Lingus’ decision to axe one of its daily services from Shannon to Heathrow Airport is frustrating and disruptive to many intending passengers, this cancellation of flights potentially points to bigger problems for Shannon Airport and the Midwest region”.

He outlined, “Over the past decade, the government has sold its entire stake in the Aer Lingus company and the airline has now been subsumed into IAG, which is largely based in Madrid and London. The landing slots which were once ringfenced for Aer Lingus on the Shannon-Heathrow service now belong to the IAG company and it’s now up to them on a commercial whim to decide where and how these slots should be used. In 2015, the government sold its last share of Aer Lingus and secured a guarantee from IAG that Shannon-Heathrow slots would remain protected until the autumn of 2022. We’re now only weeks out from this guarantee expiring and the government has no legal basis to secure a new guarantee. We’re now very much at the mercy of Aer Lingus and the IAG group overall”.

Currently Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on aviation and tourism, the Meelick native noted the success of the Shannon to Heathrow service throughout its history which strengthened his confidence that it “will continue long into the future, but it will no longer enjoy guaranteed status. I think the people who work in the aviation sector, and indeed those in Co. Clare and the wider Midwest who have staunchly support Shannon Airport for years, can feel let down by politicians in the past who undersold the airport and ensured through their actions that its status would be diminished”.

Connections to international hubs like Heathrow is pivotal for Shannon, he stressed. “While we all love to see Ryanair planes taking off to sun destinations, the core business of Shannon revolves around transatlantic services and the all-important link to the international hub that is Heathrow. The lack of security for this route is a political failure of the past and I don’t see a pathway for reinstating any guarantees at this time. Like many European airports, Shannon will now exist in a commercial bubble where its key routes are nailed down on a season-by-season basis”.

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