Breen reminds Government of their assurance on transatlantic passengers numbers and warns that Aer Lingus statement will do little to ally fears in the Mid-West that services at Shannon will not be cutback

September 9th, 2008 - Pat Breen

Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen reacting to Dermot Mannions statement last week that the airline will be making “fundamental changes” in their operating cost base claims that it does “little to ally the fears in the Mid-West Region that transatlantic services at Shannon will not be cutback.” Deputy Breen is warning the Government that they cannot simply wash their hands of the situation having given guarantees that Aer Lingus would deliver 400,000 transatlantic passengers to Shannon post Open Skies and that in an Open Skies environment this Region would share in the benefits of extra services from the US.

Aer Lingus which posted an operating loss of €22.3m for the first half of this year with losses of €30m expected at the end of 2008. The situation is expected to continue to look bleak well into 2009 when further losses are expected.

“This is an extremely challenging time for airlines right across the globe, the constant surge in oil prices coupled with the current economic decline is placing enormous pressures on the Aviation Industry. Aer Lingus is the latest airline to be hit, already this year we have seen the demise of 24 airlines worldwide all of which have gone under in the past six months.”

“It is hard to see however where Aer Lingus can make further savings at Shannon, the workers have already borne the brunt of the pain and have contributed significant savings through the PCI programme for change which is set to run up until 2011 and with no short term reprieve in sight on the cost of fuel, the fear is that transatlantic services at the Airport will be seriously reduced”.

“In a year when Aer Lingus has expanded their long-haul network, signing a partnership deal with JetBlue Airway and a codeshare agreement with United Airlines, it appears that their customers here in the Mid-West region will not reap the benefits and in fact are likely to have to face travel through Dublin Airport in ever increasing numbers if cutbacks proceed at Shannon.”

“Any further diminution of transatlantic services at Shannon Airport will further hit this region’s declining competitiveness, talk of reductions in their Daily New York service to 4 days a week, an axing of their Chicago service and a curtailment of their Boston service to 3 days will hit this Region hard. Direct Transatlantic Services from Shannon Airport are pivotal to sustaining our industrial base here in the Mid-West and having already lost our connectivity to the Heathrow any move in this direct will be catastrophic for industries based here in the West of Ireland who are dependant on a daily link to the US. After all, there are 65 US companies located in the mid-west providing direct employment to an estimated 11,000 people.”

Minister Dempsey cannot wash his hands, in the past ten years various Government Transport Ministers told us to embrace the opportunities that Open Skies would present and that there were 22 new US airports ready to take off for Ireland and that we would share in the business. In tandem with the introduction of Open Skies we were also supposed to be the beneficiaries of a €53m tourism and economic development but this evaporated like quick sand together with the assurance that former Minister Martin Cullen told us that he had sought and received from Aer Lingus to deliver 400,000 transatlantic passengers post Open Skies and there is still no sign of the extension to the US Customs and Border Protection facility at Shannon.”

“How many more crisis will it take before this Transport Minister acts?”