Retention of slots for Irish airports must be pre-requisite in any IAG take-over of Aer Lingus, a leading industrial figure in Shannon has warned.
Mr Ken Sullivan, an executive director of Element Six, said that the ability to attract further investment into the region will be undermined by any threat to Shannon-Heathrow slots. He said that Government must make retention of slots for Shannon, as well as Cork and Dublin, a prerequisite for its agreement to any deal.
“This region is every bit as dependent now on Shannon-Heathrow services as it was back in 2007 when the Shannon slots were moved temporarily to Belfast. The business community here united in opposition to that move and this time around the threat is not just to Shannon but also Cork and Dublin,” said Mr Sullivan, who was vice chairman of the Atlantic Connectivity Alliance – the group of business and tourism representatives that came together to seek the restoration of Shannon Heathrow services in 2007.
“The Government, as a significant shareholder and in recognition of the threat this represents to the national interest, must reject any bid put to the board unless the contract of sale includes a clause that ensures existing services between the three Irish airports and Heathrow are protected. This must be the very minimum the Government insists on.
“As a company Element Six is a regular user of the Shannon-Heathrow route. Shannon is the only airport on the entire western seaboard with access to Heathrow, which gives one-stop connectivity to so many key international markets. Not having this access is simply not an option for us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Limerick Chamber has warned the Government that the short-term monetary gain from the sale of Aer Lingus has the potential to do much more long-term detrimental damage to our country’s employment rates and economic well-being.
Limerick Chamber Interim CEO, Dr Órlaith Borthwick said, “Connectivity to Heathrow is a prerequisite to doing business in our global economy. This makes Aer Lingus’ slots at Heathrow national assets of strategic importance. The government holds a 25.1% stake in Aer Lingus. Protecting Ireland’s access to these slots is why government held onto a share in the company when it was floated in 2006; the arguments which informed that decision are as valid now as they were then.”