- Airline forced to axe services to Irish airports amid Heathrow cap
- Lack of security for route going forward
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Tourism and Aviation Cathal Crowe has labelled the lack of security around Shannon Airport’s Heathrow route as a political failure of the past.
It follows the move by Aer Lingus to cut one of its Heathrow to Shannon services per day this week, in order to meet the London airport’s cap on passenger numbers.
Over the weekend, the airline also cut flights to Dublin and to Cork on separate days to meet what it has called “the mandated flight cancellations”.
“Whilst Aer Lingus’ decision to axe one of its daily services from Shannon to Heathrow Airport is frustrating and disruptive to many intending passengers, this cancellation of flights potentially points to bigger problems for Shannon Airport and the Midwest region,” said Deputy Crowe.
“Over the past decade, the government has sold its entire stake in the Aer Lingus company and the airline has now been subsumed into IAG, which is largely based in Madrid and London.
“The landing slots which were once ringfenced for Aer Lingus on the Shannon-Heathrow service now belong to the IAG company and it’s now up to them on a commercial whim to decide where and how these slots should be used.
“In 2015, the government sold its last share of Aer Lingus and secured a guarantee from IAG that Shannon-Heathrow slots would remain protected until the autumn of 2022.
“We’re now only weeks out from this guarantee expiring and the government has no legal basis to secure a new guarantee.
“We’re now very much at the mercy of Aer Lingus and the IAG group overall.
“Commercially, the Shannon-Heathrow service has been very successful and prior to the onset of the Covid pandemic carried a large body of passengers.
“On this basis, I expect that the service will continue long into the future, but it will no longer enjoy guaranteed status.
“I think the people who work in the aviation sector, and indeed those in Co. Clare and the wider Midwest who have staunchly support Shannon Airport for years, can feel let down by politicians in the past who undersold the airport and ensured through their actions that its status would be diminished.
“While we all love to see Ryanair planes taking off to sun destinations, the core business of Shannon revolves around transatlantic services and the all-important link to the international hub that is Heathrow.
“The lack of security for this route is a political failure of the past and I don’t see a pathway for reinstating any guarantees at this time.
“Like many European airports, Shannon will now exist in a commercial bubble where its key routes are nailed down on a season-by-season basis.
“Notwithstanding the concerns I have regarding the Heathrow service, it must be acknowledged that Shannon is currently experiencing a recovery growth in the post-Covid period far greater than anyone would’ve expected.
“It’s now imperative that all political efforts are channelled towards securing an additional European hub, such as Frankfurt, to ensure that future reliance isn’t all concentrated on one hub airport, to the exclusion of others.”