GOVERNMENT’S self-professed commitment to regional development would “ring hollow” were Shannon’s connections to Heathrow lost in any takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG, business leaders have warned.
As British Airways’ parent company continues to circle Aer Lingus, the presidents of the Chambers of Commerce from Limerick to Galway have joined forces in urging the government not to cash in its 25% stake in Aer Lingus for a relatively paltry €320 million payday - and especially if any deal does not guarantee continued connectivity from Heathrow to the west of Ireland.
“Recent government concerns articulated by jobs minister Richard Bruton that Ireland will ‘pay a heavy economic social cost in years to come if regional imbalances are not addressed’ will ring hollow should slots at London Heathrow, currently controlled by Aer Lingus, be lost in any planned sale of the national carrier,” stated the four chamber presidents including Limerick’s Cathal Treacy and Shannon’s Kevin Thompstone.
“Connectivity, through Heathrow, gives a small open economy like Ireland unrivalled daily air connectivity to the biggest airport in our country’s leading trading partner and global access and connectivity from Irish airports through the full range of carriers operating at Heathrow.
With Heathrow currently at full capacity, the benefits to IAG of acquiring 23 additional slot pairs are clearly obvious – a more dominant position at Heathrow than their 53% slot share currently offers; the opportunity to redeploy newly acquired slots to more lucrative long-haul routes, some perhaps via Dublin, but with a more likely adverse effect on Shannon and Cork,” the chamber presidents stated.
The government, they added, had “a duty to act strategically in the interests of its citizens, employers and investors long-term requirements”.