AER Lingus has confirmed it is to lay off all 129 Inflight Service and Ground Operations staff in Shannon Airport from next Monday, March 8, until June 7.
The workers will not receive a wage for the duration of this layoff and Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Aviation Cathal Crowe has labelled the move a real blow for the region.
“Aer Lingus’s announcement is majorly disappointing and a real blow for its Shannon workers, who have faced almost a year of stress and anxiety about their jobs,” said Deputy Crowe.
A statement from the airline referencing the announcement on Friday of its full year results said it showed Aer Lingus recorded an operating of loss of €361m in 2020.
“This represents the largest ever loss in the airline’s history and demonstrates the profound impact of Covid-19. Increased travel restrictions in Ireland and across our network and the subsequent negative impact on demand for travel required us to review our network schedule and operations.”
Having completed a review of the Shannon operation, and on the basis that no flights have operated to or from Shannon since April 6 2020, Aer Lingus concluded that it is not sustainable to continue to roster staff to the current levels when there is no work available.
“As a result, Aer Lingus has had to take the decision to place all 129 Inflight Service and Ground Operations staff in Shannon on temporary unpaid lay-off from March 8 until June 7. This may also be subject to further extension or change based on work requirements in Shannon,” the statement read.
“Aviation planning has long lead-times and it is therefore imperative that a clear exit plan from the current restrictions is urgently developed. This will enable the restoration of Ireland’s connectivity as quickly as possible and ensure that the economy is supported to deliver the recovery that will be vital for the country. Government should engage proactively with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure that this plan is put in place,” the statement concluded.
Deputy Crowe said, “For most of the last year, the state has heavily subsidised the Aer Lingus wage bill, first with the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and more recently, the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme.
“Whilst the airline is facing significant losses, it has also been well supported – in the last number of weeks, Aer Lingus received a €150m state loan from Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund.
“I have engaged with the airline and colleagues in government to see if further supports can be put in place so that the Shannon-based workers aren’t left on the breadline.”
The FF deputy added that a pathway back to flights must be found at the earliest possible opportunity. On the back of accelerated vaccinations, he raised the possibility of a Covid passport, so that those who have been immunised can take to the skies again.
He also questioned if Aer Lingus should still be continuing to advertise flights from Shannon.
“I’ve been made aware of a number of people who have booked flights for down the line under the illusion that they would be flying from Shannon, only to receive an automated email to say that they will in fact be flying from Dublin instead.
“This, at a time when aviation is at its lowest ebb, builds false hope in consumers and is misleading.
“If they’re flying from Dublin only – which, let me stress, nobody likes – then they need to be honest with customer base at this time.”