THE current obligation on Aer Lingus to run a Heathrow-Shannon service, put in place as a condition of the Government’s sale of the State’s shares in the airline back in 2015, is about to run out.
While it is understood that the routes had been performing well prior to Covid, the fact that the guarantee is expiring will inevitably induce a certain amount of trepidation given how significant they are.
The fact that Shannon Airport has connectivity to Heathrow is deemed hugely important to it and to Clare.
Heathrow is one of the world’s busiest airports and a global hub, meaning that passengers who fly there from Shannon can travel onwards to a massive number of destinations.
The link is of huge importance to Shannon’s industrial base and to Clare’s tourism industry.
Clare TD Cathal Crowe raised the situation with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe in the Dáil last week, while he also questioned if the State could help Shannon secure connectivity to another major hub.
“I wish to ask the Minister about Shannon Airport. Its management team has made an application to Government under the Brexit adjustment fund to try to secure European hub connectivity, something that is all the more important since Brexit.
“I understand it is targeting airports like Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt and Schiphol in Amsterdam. I understand the matter is before the Minister’s Department and the Minister, Deputy McGrath, along with the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, is considering this.
“Will they give any positive indication that they have looked at this? Will he say something about the precious Heathrow slots?
“The agreement with IAG and Aer Lingus winds down in September. Will the Government provide any clarity that there will be a guaranteed Shannon-Heathrow service beyond September 2022?”
Responding, Minister Donohoe said that the Government will try to support Shannon, but he gave few details.
“The Government will do all it can to support the development of Shannon Airport. It is a critical airport for aviation and for supporting the local economies to which the Deputy referred.
“The Government has not made a final decision on how funding from the Brexit adjustment reserve fund could be used against airports like that, but I will keep in mind what he has said.”
Regarding Heathrow connectivity, he added, “I am aware of the end point that is coming up regarding the Heathrow landing slots. I was involved in negotiating the agreement many years ago. “We
will certainly make the case, and assist our airports in making the case, for the preservation of those slots in the years ahead.
“It will be outside of the agreement we put in place at the time of the sale of Aer Lingus, but as the Deputy and those running Shannon Airport know very well, the best guarantee of being able to preserve the loss is ensuring they are active with passengers flying in both directions on those routes, which Shannon Airport is excellent at doing.”