Breen questions Aer Lingus CEO during Transport Committee Meeting.

December 18th, 2008 - Pat Breen

Deputy Pat Breen:      My concerns mirror those of Deputy Dooley. I acknowledge the sacrifices made by the Aer Lingus workers at Shannon and I wrote to Mr. Mannion in connection with the matter. If the Shannon-Heathrow service were to resume, what would be the impact on other services? Aer Lingus has only a limited number of slots available and is obliged to distribute them. Mr. Mannion stated previously that two slots had been leased to Continental Airlines.

Deputy Timmy Dooley:      Let us get the service back first.

Deputy Pat Breen:      For it to resume, the slots must be available. Some other region will suffer as our region did when the Shannon-Heathrow service was terminated last year. As Deputy Dooley is aware, people in Clare remain extremely angry with regard to Aer Lingus’s decision to terminate the service. Each morning there are debates on local radio and people’s wrath with regard to what has happened to the region as a result of this decision is evident. Businesses are suffering in this regard. If Mr. Barrington could put his Santa Claus on and be generous to us before Christmas by giving us an indication in this regard, confidence would be regained in the region.

Shannon Airport will provide full customs and border protection facilities from July 2009. Will he expand on transatlantic proposals the airline may have for 2009, given this facility is a huge positive for the area?

Mr. Dermot Mannion:  I will address that but I do not want to forget Deputy Breen’s question, to which I will return in a moment. From Aer Lingus’s perspective, the Chairman will acknowledge we have never been slow to accept an invitation in the three and a half years I have been here to appear before the committee on good and bad days to face up to the issues and the comments.

Mr. Dermot Mannion:  I can only acknowledge what the Chairman said. I do not apologise to anybody for the work put in in recent weeks to sustain a year round transatlantic service from Shannon Airport. Two years ago, one of the big concerns in the Dáil, the Seanad and at this committee was what would happen to Shannon Airport in the event of the Open Skies arrangement being agreed. Combined with the massive economic recession we have witnessed in recent times, it has taken a substantial combined effort on the part of the board, management and staff of Aer Lingus to create a situation where we can confidently look forward to retaining winter and summer transatlantic services from Shannon Airport. This was going on long before the Ryanair bid. It is an indication, from the top of Aer Lingus, of the airline’s bona fides in respect of the region. I acknowledge the comments of Deputies Breen, Dooley and O’Donnell that the Shannon service is an outstanding issue. That is as far as I can go for today.