Shannon Airport seeks recovery package as Donohoe says he will speak to Aer Lingus




'Aer Lingus announced last week it was temporarily laying off its Shannon-based cabin crew.' Photo: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg
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'Aer Lingus announced last week it was temporarily laying off its Shannon-based cabin crew.' Photo: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

Shannon Airport is seeking a financial support package from the Government after a collapse in its traffic and the decision by Aer Lingus to lay off staff at the mid-west airport.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has also pledged to speak with Aer Lingus about the matter. If the airport cannot convince Aer Lingus to resurrect its now cancelled London Heathrow service - using the valuable slots at that airport that were a key part of the government's deal to sell Aer Lingus to IAG - the airport faces a huge crisis, according to sources.

Aer Lingus announced last week it was temporarily laying off its Shannon-based cabin crew but, when asked about the slots, a spokeswoman said that the EU Commission suspension of its "use-it-or-lose-it" rule on slots meant the route would not be impacted. But the move has come as a major blow to the airport, which had been given cause for optimism in February after Aer Lingus said it would base a second aircraft at the airport, boosting traffic by 20pc. This boost was badly needed after traffic at the airport had fallen to 2015 levels in 2019, down 8pc to 1.71m. That was well below the 3.5 million passenger level a Booz report, published in 2012 by then minister for transport Leo Varadkar, had found were necessary to retain the current staffing levels of about 210. That report recommended splitting Shannon from DAA.

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Clare TD Joe Carey raised the concerns around Shannon with Donohoe. A spokesman for the minister said: "The matter was raised with the minister by Joe. Given the minister's involvement with Aer Lingus in recent years he has agreed to raise the matter. This is a commercial decision by Aer Lingus."

A spokeswoman for Shannon Group, which owns the airport, said: "We are living in an unprecedented era of uncertainty with the full impact to public health and the economy of Covid-19 yet to be determined. The speed and impact with which the virus has disrupted day-to-day life is unlike anything we have experienced in living memory."

The spokeswoman said the airport had delivered a solid financial performance last year and was this year positioned for a return to growth having secured three new air services.

"We were also looking forward to a continuation of our capital investment programme which has seen us invest over €115m since our formation in 2014 in a range of projects, the latest of which was the delivery of the first wide-body aircraft hangar in Ireland in almost 20 years," she said.

"Unfortunately, given the expected long-term impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the global economy, it is unclear how long it will take to return to normal trading levels."

The spokeswoman said it was "uncertain as to when air services can resume" but that "Shannon has overcome many obstacles in its history and with the right supports we know we can resume operations".

She added: "This will undoubtedly require a recovery support package to navigate through this unparalleled crisis, and this is something that we are engaging with government on."

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