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‘Realistic plan’ may spell bad news for Clare airport

FEARS are growing that Aer Lingus won’t resume transatlantic services at Shannon until at least next year.
A document has been circulating, ostensibly an internal Aer Lingus one, which indicates that this will be the case.
Part of the document’s headline states “Realistic Plan” and it indicates that services from Shannon to Boston and New York won’t resume until 2022.
In recent times Aer Lingus has sought to develop new transatlantic services from Manchester, and it indicates that Manchester-Orlando and New York would begin in late July, while Manchester-Barbados would begin in October. A number of transatlantic services would also restart from Dublin this year.
The document also says that rebuilding the Dublin hub from September will be a priority.
If the document were a hoax it would be a rather elaborate one, while Aer Lingus did not deny its validity when approached for comment last Friday.
In a statement the airline said, “Aer Lingus is currently flying a significantly reduced schedule. The schedule for the duration of 2021, and beyond, remains under constant review.”
The airline’s commitment to Shannon has frequently been questioned over the years, and recent years has seen some criticism of the State’s decision to sell off the former national airline, as aviation connectivity is particularly important to an island nation.
Some 129 Shannon-based Aer Lingus staff were temporarily laid off in March, prompting much anger, as employees at Cork and Dublin were exempted.
In a statement Clare TD Cathal Crowe said it is crucial the transatlantic services do return.
“A story circulating today hints that it could be more than a year before they return transatlantic services to Shannon, which is of huge concern to their workers but would also have a devastating impact on the economy and tourism trade in the Mid-West.
“Shannon, for many decades, has been the first stepping-stone for many North Americans entering Ireland and indeed Europe and it is essential that this connectivity is restored in the quickest possible timeframe.”
He said that aviation will resume shortly, referencing the Digital Green Certificate as an indicator of progress.
“Aer Lingus, like many airlines, can feel disgruntled and hugely frustrated with the situation over the past 14 months, whereby practically all aircraft were grounded, very few took to the skies but the fact is there is now a clear pathway emerging for the restoration of international air travel.
“Just last week, the Digital Green Certificate was voted through the EU Parliament and this process of certification which will facilitate vaccinated and PCR-tested passengers to take to our skies once more is now going through final stages of refinement before being adopted by all member states.
“It’s expected that adoption and implementation will happen in approximately six weeks’ time.
“Parallel to this, the EU Commission is working on a separate set of proposals for Schengen Area countries that would allow a return of flights coming from North America.
“At last night’s meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party, I urged An Taoiseach and my colleagues in government to embrace these proposals with open arms.
“Though Ireland isn’t a Schengen Area country, we have been invited to partake in the talks and it’s in our best interests that we would go along with these proposals. All going well, it should be possible to see airplanes return to our skies in the next six to eight weeks.”
He urged Aer Lingus to take a leaf from the Ryanair book.
“Ryanair recently announced a new route from Shannon to Corfu and they expect to be running from Shannon in the summer and autumn period – we need the same commitment from Aer Lingus.
“This period of uncertainty is near an end and whilst I look forward to a staycation in Ireland with my family, I’ve already booked a flight from Shannon in August in anticipation of a return to international travel.
“It’s important that we here in the Mid-West commit to supporting Shannon but we also need equal commitment from our airlines that have for so long serviced the region.”

by Owen Ryan

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