Next month, the Irish government is planning to relax its restrictions on international travel. This could be seen as a sign of a more promising summer ahead for the country’s flag carrier, Aer Lingus. However, the airline’s CEO, Lynne Embleton, has criticized the plan, questioning whether it will be enough to restore its former network and staff numbers.
Too little, too late?
You might have thought that the Irish government’s planned relaxation of travel restrictions would galvanize the country’s airline industry. After all, to use an example from across the Irish Sea, the UK has seen strong booking increases on routes to destinations its ‘green list,’ which came into place in May. However, Aer Lingus does not share such optimism.
Specifically, its CEO, Lynne Embleton, has criticized the Irish government’s plans as being too little, too late. Her primary concern is that the planned relaxations will not come soon enough to have a meaningful effect on the airline’s recovery prospects, in terms of both its network and its staff numbers. According to the Irish Times, she told politicians that:
“It’s looking too little too late to really have a significant bounce that will get us onto the right path to restoring connectivity and jobs.”
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Shannon takes the hit
Embleton’s concerns about restoring jobs at the airline are understandable, given the cuts that it has already had to make amid the pandemic. In March, it had to temporarily lay off 129 staff members in Shannon, with 130 in Cork set to suffer a similar fate after the summer.
Shannon, in particular, has taken a significant operational hit, with job cuts resulting in Aer Lingus closing its base there. This decision is set to be permanent, in the hope that it improves the airline’s cash flow. That being said, Embleton stated that “we want to fly to the regions,” so the airline won’t withdraw its services altogether. She explained further that:
“We will not be reversing that decision. It’s the right decision to get Aer Lingus flying, generating cash and generating jobs.”
Manchester summer season also lost
This summer was also supposed to herald the start of transatlantic operations from Aer Lingus’s new base at Manchester Airport in the northwest of England. Its planned services from there to New York, Orlando (both this year), Barbados, and Boston (both next year) will see it face off against Virgin Atlantic on these potentially lucrative point-to-point routes.
The Irish flag carrier had planned to launch these flights, operated by a subsidiary known as Aer Lingus UK, in July. However, ongoing uncertainty regarding the short-term future of international travel continues to prevail. As such, it has rescheduled the launch for September, further dampening the prospects of a summer recovery.
What do you make of Ms Embleton’s criticism of the Irish government’s planned easing of travel curbs? Have you flown with Aer Lingus since the pandemic began? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.