Cate McCurry, PA
The boss of Aer Lingus has defended the airline’s decision to close its Shannon Airport base, saying it was the “right decision” to get the company profitably flying.
Chief executive Lynne Embleton said the amount of flights out of Shannon meant it was “not cost-effective” to have a crew based at the airport.
Ms Embleton also said the airline will not be reversing its decision to remove the cabin crew from its Shannon base.
Stobart Air informed Aer Lingus earlier this month that it was terminating its franchise agreement and was in the process of appointing a liquidator.
The decision led to the cancellation of all Aer Lingus flights operated by Stobart Air.
Ms Embleton told the Oireachtas Transport Committee: “It’s the structure of the amount of flying and schedules that we are able to operate to and from Shannon, it simply didn’t support an ongoing crew base in the way that was cost-effective.”
Fine Gael TD Joe Carey said it was a “very traumatic time” for cabin crew and their families.
“They have endured a really troublesome time over the last 18 months since the pandemic,” he added.
“We really need answers because there has been very little feedback from Aer Lingus on Shannon, on its commitment to Shannon and its commitment to people that deliver a really good service, particularly travelling to Heathrow and North America and into Europe.
“Any time there is a crisis in Aer Lingus, the first place it looks to is Shannon.”
Ms Embleton said: “I appreciate it is a difficult time for staff in Shannon.
“There is no strategic retreatment from Shannon, that is not our strategic intent.
“In fact, I hope that we will want the same thing, that we keep Ireland connected.
“It is the case that there has been no flying from Shannon since March 2020 and it is the case that the cabin crew base was expensive and an impediment to restoring flights.
“When I look at restoring flights, the best chance of getting aircraft back up in the air is having a cost-base that allows us to drive cash back into the business and a travel policy that encourages people to fly.”
Ms Embleton said she was not able to give a commitment to reinstate cabin crew.
“We will not be reversing that decision. It is the right decision to get Aer Lingus profitably flying, generating cash, supporting jobs,” she added.
“When passengers can fly without impediments, I am confident we will be able to restore flights to the US, to Heathrow but I’m not giving a date today.”
Ms Embleton was also critical of travel restrictions that apply to people travelling from the UK and the US into the Republic.
She told the committee that passengers arriving into Ireland from Britain and the US should be treated the same as those arriving from Europe from July 19th.
“We don’t believe an evidence-based approach would conclude there should be differences in approaches between travellers UK-Ireland and US-Ireland and the rest of the EU,” Ms Embleton added.
“We believe that it is a further impediment to aviation getting back on its feet and starting to see that recovery we all need.”
She described the quarantine policies as “anti-family” as unvaccinated children travelling from the US or UK would have to self-isolate.
Ms Embleton also said that antigen testing should be used as part of the pre-departure screening.
“That view is shared by other countries in the EU and adopted that standard,” she added.
“The Irish policy still insists on PCR testing, which is more expensive, less convenient and again another impediment to restoring travel.”