Aer Lingus confirms talks with staff on job losses

Aer Lingus is in talks with workers on job losses at the airline, its chief executive, Sean Doyle, confirmed to TDs and senators on Tuesday.

Responding to fears that Aer Lingus could be wound up, Mr Doyle told the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee that the company was in consultations with workers and their representatives.

The airline has already formally told the Government that it could have to seek up to 500 redundancies from its 4,500 workers.

Mr Doyle said Aer Lingus was working hard to come through the crisis.

“If you enact the recommendations of the aviation task force, then coupled with what we are doing ourselves, Aer Lingus will have a future when all this is over,” he said.

Those recommendations included lifting travel restrictions such as the 14-day quarantine imposed on passengers travelling into the Republic.

Mr Doyle said Ireland stands alone in Europe when it comes to its travel restrictions and has been effectively closed off to business.

The Government published a green list of countries and areas last week that people can enter Ireland from without having to quarantine but people are still being told to avoid non-essential travel.

The list excludes Britain, the US, and popular holiday destinations for Irish holidaymakers such as Spain.

The 15 approved areas are Malta, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece, Greenland, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino.

Mr Doyle told the committee that the pandemic has been “catastrophic” for the airline industry.

He said: “There is not a clear understanding of the scale of the crisis or indeed its significance for the Irish economy and its future recovery.

“Ireland’s travel restrictions are more restrictive than any other country in Europe, and Ireland now stands alone in applying a policy, while the rest of Europe has opened up for travel.

“The criteria being used for Ireland is even more restrictive than what the EU uses for passengers from third countries entering the EU.

“I started off by saying the Covid-19 crisis had brought about the greatest crisis of global aviation the industry has ever experienced. The situation in the Irish sector is even worse.”

Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson said aviation in Ireland supports 40,000 direct jobs and more than 100,000 indirect jobs and said Ireland risks being left behind unless travel restrictions are eased.

“We are on the periphery of Europe, and shutting down connectivity will lead to stagnation, and massive job losses in Ireland. That is a certainty and we should wake up to it,” he said.

Miriam Ryan, head of strategy with Dublin Airport Authority, told the committee that testing arriving passengers for Covid-19 would be “challenging”.

She said: “It presents challenges when it comes to space for holding passengers and where you keep them while they are being tested, and the availability of reagents when it comes to testing, and the availability of suitability qualified staff to undertake that testing.”

Additional reporting: Press Association