Fine Gael TD for Clare and Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pat Breen, has welcomed the potential sale of the Government’s minority share holding in Aer Lingus, having received significant concessions from IAG.
“This is good news for Shannon Airport as it includes a commitment to the future of the airport. This commitment to Shannon Airport, as part of the new deal on Aer Lingus is most welcome for people and businesses in the Clare and the region.
“IAG has indicated that Aer Lingus’ services to Boston and New York will be strengthened and options to enhance the existing all-business British Airways twice daily service (from Heathrow to JFK via Shannon) will be considered. In the context of sustaining and growing services at Shannon, IAG has stated that growth opportunities with tourism and business interests in our Mid-West region will also be pursued together with IAG’s US partner, American Airlines.
For the first time, we now have legally binding guarantees on slot usage and disposal which will be written into the Articles of Association, something which I had lobbied extensively for since the initial IAG bid was tabled. Aer Lingus will continue to operate its current daily winter and summer scheduled frequencies between London Heathrow and Shannon for seven years post-acquisition. An indication of Aer Lingus’s future commitment to Shannon was their recent announcement that they are increasing capacity on the Shannon Heathrow Route by restoring an Airbus 320 to the service, replacing the A319, which will add 25,000 seats to the service this winter alone.
In addition, we have effectively a veto over any future disposal of Aer Lingus slots in Heathrow. With a Golden Share being retained in the control of our Finance Minister, the State will now have a greater say on any potential slot disposal. These guarantees will provide far greater certainty around connectivity to Heathrow into the future than the State currently has as a minority shareholder in Aer Lingus.
The Government announcement on the proposed sale of shares in Aer Lingus makes specific reference to IAG’s plans to sustain and grow Aer Lingus’ business at Shannon Airport and to explore the new growth opportunities that will be available as part of IAG.
The Shannon Airport Group has welcomed this decision and I am confident that they will be in a position to exploit any growth opportunities which will exist particularly on the transatlantic given the availability of Pre Clearance facilities and the constraints on capacity at Dublin Airport and in the Hotel Industry in the Capital to handle this anticipated growth.
Later on today, the Finance Minister Michael Noonan and the Public Expenditure & Reform Minister Brendan Howlin are set to announce the details of how the proceeds of the State’s share holding will be used through the establishment of “Connectivity Fund” and I am pressing the Finance Minister to make part of this funding available to the Mid-West Region with a view to improving our Transatlantic, European and UK connectivity.
“I am very reassured by this commitment to Shannon Airport. Shannon is crucial for connectivity for people in Clare, and the wider region. It is a crucial gateway to the west coast of Ireland and the increasingly popular and successful Wild Atlantic Way.”