Aer Lingus’ decision to permanently close its cabin crew base at Shannon Airport has been greeted with an enormous sense of disappointment across the travel sector, with Shannon Airport and travel agents based in the region expressing dismay at the announcement.
Mary Considine, CEO of Shannon Group said: “Our thoughts are with the Shannon based Aer Lingus employees impacted by this decision. It is extremely disappointing news for them.
“This announcement highlights once again the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across the aviation sector here. Restoring regional connectivity and international travel will be pivotal to economic recovery as we emerge from the effects of the pandemic. Critical to this will be the urgent implementation of a clear road map and timelines for the restart of aviation.”
Despite the closure of the cabin crew base, Aer Lingus has not ruled out the resumption of services from Shannon Airport once the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have lifted. It’s a point not entirely lost on the airport.
“Aer Lingus remains a valued partner for Shannon Group, and we value our long-established and continuing relationship with the airline,” continued Mary Considine.
“We are committed to working with them and all our aviation partners on the restoration of vital services to and from Shannon Airport which are critical for business and tourism sectors. “
The announcement will directly affect up to 130 jobs, with staff offered either “enhanced” redundancy or possible transfer to Dublin Airport. Up to 45 ground crew who have been without work throughout the pandemic will not return, according to yesterday’s statement.
“The news yesterday was just devastating,” said Maura Fahy, Managing Director of Fahy Travel in Galway.
“We had been watching the Aer Lingus services and were expecting something to happen. We had put people off making bookings, particularly for transatlantic services.”
Should Aer Lingus pull its service completely from Shannon, Ms Fahy believes it will be “very bad” for both inbound and outbound travel.
“Shannon is at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way and corporate business on the west coast,” she added.
“Shannon is an innovative airport that punches well above its weight. I cannot believe our own national carrier would pull out of it.
“Travel costs and time constraints for people from the west and mid-west will increase considerably when they have to travel through Dublin. Parking in Dublin is probably double what it is in Shannon,” she went on to say.
Tony Brazil, owner of Limerick Travel, said the news was “devastating.”
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) noted that the loss of jobs and the added impact on the surrounding area is a severe blow for what has already been a very difficult year for those working in the travel industry, and is indicative of the damage caused by COVID-19 on the Irish travel sector.
Pat Dawson, CEO of the ITAA said: “We were disappointed to hear of the permanent closure of Aer Lingus’s cabin crew base in Shannon Airport and the loss of Aer Lingus jobs in the area, as this is a further blow to our industry during these strange and difficult times. Local tourism will suffer as a result, as well as the negative implications for inbound and outbound travel from Shannon.”
He continued, “This closure has been cards since the arrival of COVID-19 in Ireland and highlights the difficulties the travel industry has been experiencing over the last year, demonstrating the need for Government support for the Irish travel industry in order to retain jobs and repair some of the damage caused by the pandemic. The Irish Travel Agents Association are calling on the Government to extend income support for the travel industry into 2022 when the public are back travelling and holidaying again.”
Government ‘Acknowledges’ Decision
In a statement following Aer Lingus’ announcement, Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan T.D. and Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton T.D. said that they “remain acutely aware of the devastating impact that COVID-19 restrictions are having on the aviation sector, both nationally and across the globe” and that they were both “committed to ensuring that the aviation industry is in a position to rebound quickly when the public health situation allows, and that Government supports continue to be utilised to aid companies and their staff throughout this crisis.”
The two ministers are meeting today with Lynne Embleton, the recently appointed CEO of Aer Lingus, to discuss plans for the re-opening of the aviation sector.