Aer Lingus tries again to escape the nightmare that is Shannon
Published 17/06/2010 | 05:00
First Willie Walsh, then Dermot Mannion and now Christopher Mueller. All three Aer Lingus chief executives have tried to ditch routes and services from Shannon, only to be met with a wall of resistance from government, local politicians, western seaboard business interests and, in the case of Mannion, even the odd bishop.
The latest attempt to hack off some of the loss-making Shannon routes is quite clever.
The airline has been losing an astonishing €11m a year on winter services out of Shannon since 1995, which prompts the question why did it take the airline so long to prune out these routes? (In mitigation, the Shannon stopover rule did make it necessary for flights to land there every day).
German chief executive Mueller has now tried to cut back the losses by not flying from Shannon to New York and Boston between January and the end of March.
This will irritate the Shannon Airport lobby, but the airline is cleverly retaining services for the other nine months, thereby sugaring the pill for those who constantly worry about the downgrading of Shannon. However, the decision to halt flights even during the St Patrick's Day period seems puzzling.
Presumably the services running over the other nine months can at least break even, if not turn in a profit.
For years, Aer Lingus chief executives have tried to escape Shannon entirely and 2007 saw Mannion moving operations from Shannon to Belfast, incurring the wrath of a whole chunk of western Ireland.
In some respects, the decision itself is not that important. The importance of the announcement is that after decades of interference, Aer Lingus is allowed to freely make its own commercial mind up about Shannon, without outsiders dictating events to the management.