Loss of Aer Lingus to Cork 'cannot be contemplated'

Loss of Aer Lingus to Cork 'cannot be contemplated'
An Aer Lingus AIRBUS A320 flight takes-off from Cork Airport.Pic: Larry Cummins,

THE Government is being urged to intervene to safeguard jobs and the Aer Lingus base at Cork airport.

On Friday, Aer Lingus confirmed that it is reviewing the scale of its flying programme from Cork as well as the ongoing viability of its regional base here.

It also announced that “significant redundancies” are required to take place across the business.

Aer Lingus is the longest-serving airline at Cork Airport and has been ever-present since the airport opened in October 1961.

The airline has continued to operate its London-Heathrow service from Cork throughout the Covid-19 crisis and has signalled its intent to reinstate its Amsterdam service three times weekly from next month.

In a statement to The Echo on Friday, Aer Lingus said that the “catastrophic impact of Covid-19 on the aviation sector has been compounded in Ireland by the implementation of the most restrictive travel policies in Europe and the failure to implement supports for the sector.”

An Aer Lingus Regional craft, operated by Stobart Air. Pic: Larry Cummins.
An Aer Lingus Regional craft, operated by Stobart Air. Pic: Larry Cummins.

Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has urged the government to intervene in the escalating crisis.

“Under no circumstances, can the loss of the Cork Aer Lingus base be contemplated,” he said.

The airline statement added that it has “not made the required progress on the implementation of industry standard work practices with key cohorts of employees”.

It continued: “In this context, and given the Aer Lingus quarterly results today, significant redundancies are required across the business. The redundancies will be on a voluntary basis if possible, but may be implemented compulsorily if required. Consultations are ongoing with the relevant representative bodies in this regard.

“Aer Lingus is also reviewing the scale of our flying programme from Cork and Shannon Airports and the ongoing viability of our regional bases there.”

Mr Ó Laoghaire said that the news was very worrying for the hundreds of Aer Lingus workers in Cork.

“The pandemic is having an enormous impact on travel and aviation — but Cork will still need air travel when this is all over, and these workers and families will need jobs.

“I have been urging the Government to start planning for the future. It has done nothing,” he said, adding: “but the Government can and should intervene, it needs to develop a plan for sustainability in aviation, and it needs to do it urgently.”

Sinn Féin's candidate Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.
Sinn Féin's candidate Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.

Mr Ó Laoghaire said the Ireland 2040 plan talks a lot about balanced regional development, but said: “How can we have balanced regional development if Cork doesn’t have a base for the national carrier?”

Senator Jerry Buttimer described the news as “disturbing and worrying”, particularly because of the “central importance” of the airport to the southern region.

He has also called for the Government to review its State aid to regional airports.

Last week, Cork Airport revealed that its traffic for the first six months of this year was down by 66% compared to the same period last year.

It expects passenger numbers to decline by almost 2m passengers in comparison to what had been previously forecast for 2020.

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