Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus is considering moving its transatlantic flights from Shannon Airport (SNN) to the United Kingdom, as it continues to grapple with the Irish government’s COVID-19 restrictions. The IAG-owned airline has two new Airbus A321neo aircraft based at Shannon Airport in County Clare that it would like to move to the UK. Before the coronavirus grounded the planes in March, they used to fly between Ireland, London Heathrow (LHR), and the United States.
According to a report published in The Irish Times today, the airline is considering moving the planes to one of six regional airports in the UK. Manchester in the north of England and Edinburgh in Scotland both want Aer Lingus to operate its Boston and New York flights from their airports.
The other four airports in contention have not been named, but it is believed that they are all regional gateways. The Irish Times reports that Aer Lingus contacted the airports that it was planning to submit tenders three weeks ago. The airports replied with offers, and it is now up to Aer Lingus to decide who to select.
The flights are not expected to start until 2021
The Aer Lingus flights between the UK and the US are not likely to start until 2021 and will have an initial contract period of three years. Aer Lingus pilots and crew will operate the flights and be based in the United Kingdom.
Losing the Aer Lingus flights to a UK airport would be a massive loss for Shannon and the west of Ireland, who rely heavily on tourism from the United States. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have already said that they will not be flying to Shannon next year. With the loss of Aer Lingus, it would leave American Airlines as the only transatlantic service operating out of Shannon.
A spokesman for the Airports operator, the Shannon Group, said that they were in talks with Aer Lingus about resuming flights to America and London Heathrow. He also pointed out that the flights were “critical” to business and tourism in the west and south of Ireland.
“These and other services have been suspended due to advice against non-essential travel, and their resumption is among the key recommendations of the Taskforce for Aviation Recovery, which included a call for a stimulus package for airports in the regions to encourage the rebuilding of traffic,” the spokesman said.
Ireland has strict quarantine rules
Ireland has some of the strictest COVID-19 rules on people entering the country, with only some European Union nations exempt from a 14-day quarantine. The country’s largest airline Ryanair has repeatedly called on the Irish Government to relax the quarantine requirement. They say that many countries on the quarantine list have a lower infection rate than the Republic.
Operating from the UK might be better
Losing the Aer Lingus flights to America and London from Shannon will be a big blow and is yet another repercussion brought on by the coronavirus. Assuming that the winning airport is Manchester, the move might prove profitable as Manchester Airport (MAN) has a much larger catchment area.
Last year Manchester Airport handled more than 27 million passengers compared to Shannon’s 1.7 million, a decline of 8% compared to 2018.
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