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Aer Lingus in British government talks on direct UK-US flights

The airline has cut flights for a month from Dublin to eight European cities

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Aer Lingus has entered high-level discussions with senior British government officials about operating direct services from the UK to the US, documents reveal. (stock photo)
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Aer Lingus has entered high-level discussions with senior British government officials about operating direct services from the UK to the US, documents reveal. (stock photo)

Aer Lingus has entered high-level discussions with senior British government officials about operating direct services from the UK to the US, documents reveal.

In an email to Aer Lingus‘s parent company, IAG, Britain’s Department for Transport chief air services negotiator Mark Bosly thanked the airline "for our very interesting meeting" about what he refers to as "Aer Lingus UK".

The revelation comes as the airline this weekend cancelled all of its services from Dublin into eight European cities for at least a month beginning on November 16.

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Routes impacted include Dublin to Brussels, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Milan, Munich, Rome, Malaga and Lanzarote, as well as Cork-to-Amsterdam.

The airline has repeatedly expressed frustration with the Irish Government's aviation restrictions.

When asked for comment, Aer Lingus said that the Dublin capacity reductions were "short term" and it was "fully focused on future travel and future bookings and have a full schedule on sale for Summer '21."

The airline made no comment on talks with the British government or on whether a UK based service would impact its Irish operation.

Previous reports have stated that Aer Lingus was considering direct UK-US services. Aviation sources have said they believe Manchester is the most likely base.

Before the pandemic, Aer Lingus had built a strong transatlantic transfer business through Dublin from the north of England.

The airline's management team, as well as senior representatives of its owner IAG, held at least one meeting in September with the British.

Bosly's follow-up email later that day to IAG's head of government affairs, Jonathan Bailey, was subsequently shared with senior Aer Lingus management, including then CEO Sean Doyle, who has since become CEO of IAG sister airline BA.

At the meeting, the Aer Lingus side raised a specific paragraph in the 2018 aviation memorandum of understanding between the UK and the US, which could be important in any bid to gain a crucial air operators certificate to operate from Britain to the US.

Bosly explained in his email that the paragraph referred to by Aer Lingus related to a "slightly obscure" provision in a 2007 agreement between the EU and the US.

It implied that "the US will not refuse permission for a majority EU-owned airline to exercise traffic rights available under a third country's bilateral ATA [air transport agreement] with the US," he said, adding that: "In other words, in theory at least, if Aer Lingus UK was majority EU owned, the terms of EU-USA ATA already determine that the US would not refuse permission to operate under the terms of the US-UK Agreement."

Bosly said "the UK can point to the US' practice of 'waiving' O&C [ownership and control] requirements where the majority stakeholders are from countries that have 'open skies' with the US". He said that Aer Lingus "through, I would suggest, the Irish authorities" could also "remind the US side of its commitments" and said he would "recommend early engagement with the US side regarding Aer Lingus' (but please keep me and my team closely apprised)."

Aer Lingus said its Dublin service cuts had been put in by place measures in line with European Union Aviation Safety Agency guidelines that "very effectively mitigate the risk of transmission".The European "traffic light system provided an "important step" towards safer travel and it called for the introduction here of "affordable rapid antigen testing" which it said would "allow for an increase in levels of safe international travel."

Sunday Indo Business

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