LONDON – Aer Lingus (EI) may move its Atlantic routes to the UK following Irish travel restrictions. Last weekend, it emerged that Manchester (MAN) and Edinburgh (EDI) could provide the flights for the US.

Both are understood to have expressed interest in a deal to take the aircraft some weeks ago, although neither has yet made an agreement with the Irish carrier. Four other UK airports are in the running.

While local sources have not named them, they are all said to be regional gateways. Any service is likely to begin in 2021 and run for an initial three years. EI Pilots and Crew would staff the flights.

Aer Lingus Airbus A330 at JFK Airport in new livery. Photo: Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus Need Help

Aer Lingus sought out contracts at UK airports, which have since responded to the airline’s request. For the Irish company, the loss of long-haul flights would be a serious blow to both SNN and West Ireland which depends on tourism and multi-national investments.

It could potentially leave SNN with just one US service, flown by American Airlines (AA) next year. Delta Air Lines (DL) and United Airlines (UA) have already confirmed that they will not resume flights from the Irish airport in 2021.

If EI moves the A321 to the UK, the carrier could still base other aircraft at SNN next year, restoring the US and London Heathrow (LHR) services, if commercial conditions allowed.

AerLingus Airbus A330 new livery in New York JFK Airport. Photo: AerLingus

Critical Situation

A spokesperson for Shannon Group said the State company was in talks with EI about resuming the airport’s trans-Atlantic and LHR flights. He stressed that these services were “ critical” to business and tourism in the west and south.

The Shannon group spokesperson said, “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 Shannon Group has joined the rest of the air travel industry in calling on governments to implement these recommendations urgently. COVID-19 and subsequent government travel restrictions have left SNN and all other Irish airports with just a fraction of their normal passenger numbers.

Additionally, EI has told the government it may have to cut up to 500 jobs, from a total of 4,500, as it deals with the ongoing impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions on air travel. The airline is one of several that have pointed out that the government’s current restrictions are stalling its efforts to begin recovering from the impact of the pandemic.

AerLingus Airbus A330-200. Photo: Aer Lingus

The Toughest Rules in Europe

The Irish travel restriction rules are among Europe’s toughest and require anyone arriving from countries not on a limited list that excludes the UK and much of the EU to self-isolate for 14 days. Sean Doyle (47), Aer Lingus CEO, recently told the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response that the airline wants the Government to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Aviation Recovery.

Ryanair (FR),  Europe’s biggest airline, has consistently called for the Government to include the UK, Germany, and the rest of the EU on the so-called “green list”. The Irish-based giant points out that the list excludes many EU states with lower virus infection rates than the Republic, while the restrictions have failed to curb recent COVID-19 spikes.

Featured image: Aer Lingus Airbus A321-251N. Photo: Dirk Grothe.