Exiting long-haul operations would have devastating consequences for Shannon Airport – BREEN.

September 3rd, 2009 - Pat Breen

Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen has today warned that any decision by Aer Lingus to exit from their long-haul operations would have devastating consequences for Shannon Airport. He is urging the new Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Mueller who will preside over the next restructuring plan at the Airline to look on the positives that Shannon Airport can play in the Airline’s recovery and not fall to the same judgements as his predecessor Dermot Mannion when he made the ill-judged decision to axe the profitable Shannon/Heathrow Service. In light of Aer Lingus announcement of a €93 million operating loss for the six months of this year, Deputy Breen has repeated his calls to the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan to scrap the €10 Air Travel Tax. Finally, Deputy Breen claims that the latest Aer Lingus US Advertising campaign does nothing to allay the suspicion that the Airline’s long-term strategy is to develop all their US services to and from Dublin Airport.

“Today, the new CEO Christoph Mueller takes over the reigns at the Airline and he is expected to immediately set about a root and branch analysis of Aer Lingus with another restructuring plan for the Airline to be published in October. As part of this latest restructuring plan, weekend media reports suggest that Aer Lingus is considering exiting from their long haul operations altogether.”

“Any decision by Aer Lingus to exit from their long-haul routes would be a devastating blow for Shannon Airport, for the Region and indeed for the entire Country. Earlier this year the New York/Shannon route was placed “under review” and the fear now is that once again this route will come under the spotlight. US daily connectivity is vital if we are to sustain industry and jobs with 65 US Companies based in this Region employing over 11,000 people.”

“The Airlines Advertising strategy over the past number of years is designed in the view of many to grow their current long-haul services into Dublin Airport. Their latest US advertising campaign does little to ally this suspicion. Aer Lingus is now offering a US Sale offering sale flights from to Boston, New York, Chicago and Orlando, however, when you go to their website it appears that these flights are only available from Dublin Airport.”

“And of course, Aer Lingus have also failed to sign up to use the new state of the art Customs and Border Protection facility at Shannon and they appear quite happy to have their Shannon passengers endure lengthy queues on arrival in the US. I cannot understand why they are continuing to refuse to negotiate a special arrangement with the US Port Authorities which would facilitate their Shannon passengers.”

“Last week the Airline announced a €93million operating loss for the first six months of this year. Aer Lingus is now carrying a fifth few passengers on its long-haul routes in June of this year compared to the same month last year. The Airlines Chairman Colm Barrington cited the imposition of the €10 Air Travel Tax as having adversely affected their bottom line.”

“I have continually pointed out to both the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Transport and Marine the folly of imposing this tax during these turbulent times for the Aviation and Tourism Industry and I would appeal again to the Minister Lenihan to abolish this tax which is having a detrimental affect on both sectors.”

“I hope that Christoph Mueller will look at the positive relationship which can be further built upon between Aer Lingus and Shannon Airport and that he will not be swayed by judgements by his predecessor Dermot Mannion whose ill-judged decision to axe the Shannon/Heathrow route was proved to be the wrong one. Now that Aer Lingus will be restoring full connectivity and basing an A320 in Shannon from October 25th next, there is the potential for further developing short-haul routes from Shannon.”

“There is no doubt about it though these are very worry times for all of their staff employed at Shannon Airport who over the past few years have already borne the brunt of cost cutting at the Airline.”

See Aer Lingus Advert log on to www.aerlingus.com.