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Government blamed over Heathrow route loss

SHANNON Airport could have seen Heathrow services resume before the end of the year had the State been more proactive about easing travel restrictions, according to Aer Lingus’ top executive.

Donal Moriarty, CEO of the carrier, told last week’s meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Networks that Aer Lingus had intended to resume the service next month. “With Shannon Airport, we had ambition to recommence our Shannon-Heathrow service in December. We cannot now do that. It was on the basis of what movement had taken place some time ago with the easing of travel restrictions.

“Our plan is to recommence operations in April on the Shannon-Heathrow, Shannon-Boston and Shannon-JFK routes. That is our plan but, as I said in my remarks, it is dependent on the significant easing of restrictions contemplated by the traffic light system, which have to be appropriately implemented. We are very keen to restore those services and we plan to do so,” he said.

Mr Moriarty said it was too late now for that to happen, stating there was “nothing that can be done at this point”. “It is too late, unfortunately. That is something we had asked for in terms of revisions to green lists a number of months ago. The aviation recovery task force has been asking for that since July.

“As Mr. Wilson (Eddie Wilson Ryanair CEO) said earlier, those recommendations have not been implemented four months later so, unfortunately, in terms of an earlier resumption of the Shannon-Heathrow service, that is now not possible.”

Reid Moody, Chief Strategy and Planning Officer of Aer Lingus said that Shannon-Heathrow services will be going off the airline’s website, and won’t be back for some months. “In the next couple of days, we will be finalising our winter schedule. That will see the removal of Shannon-Heathrow flights from aerlingus.com.

“We will be revising the full schedule for the rest of the network. That will be updated in the coming days and it will show the removal of the Heathrow flight right through to the end of February.

“Unless there is a significant sea change in that demand picture I do not see the flying from Shannon situation changing before the end of February. We are starting to put aircraft into longer-term storage.” Mr Moriarty said that there are plans to resume transatlantic services next year, and he denied that communication with Shannon staff has been poor. “We communicate with our staff on a more than weekly basis. We have local sessions with them also so they are well aware of the constraints and challenges we have in terms of our winter operation and our plans for the summer schedule. In terms of the aircraft, we are planning to resume operations on the Boston and JFK routes for summer 2021.”

About Owen Ryan

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Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.