The government needs to be “brave” and accelerate plans to fully reopen Ireland’s aviation sector, according to Dómhnal Slattery, the chief executive of Dublin-based aircraft leasing giant Avolon.
His warning comes as Dublin-based Stobart Air collapsed into liquidation over the weekend. The company, owned by the UK’s Esken group, operated the Aer Lingus Regional service on a contract basis and had employed close to 500 people.
“The rest of the world has moved on in a very significant way and Ireland needs to get it back together in that regard,” said Mr Slattery, speaking from New York.
“We need to move away from the 5km mentality,” he added. “I think the reality is they need to be brave now on the reopening, just be a bit more aggressive.”
Avolon is one of the world’s biggest aircraft leasing firms, with a fleet of 578 owned and managed aircraft as of the end of the first quarter of this year, and total orders and commitments for 262 jets.
“Sitting in New York city, Covid is yesterday’s story here, both in terms of people’s mentality and their attitude,” said Mr Slattery. “You go to Europe and it’s still the central theme.”
“Airlines have to get back flying,” he said. “Domestic markets around the world – the big markets like America and China – are fine, but international travel is continuing to be absolutely moribund.”
“There’s not going to be a summer for European airlines this year really,” said Mr Slattery.
Last week, Aer Lingus cancelled flights for the remainder of the year to some cities in Croatia, France and Italy due to weak demand.
“Aer Lingus plans to fly as full a schedule as possible, driven by demand, following the easing of travel restrictions on July 19,” said a spokesperson for the carrier, which is part of the IAG group that also owns British Airways, Iberia and Vueling.
“It is critical that there is a timely and flawless technical implementation by Ireland of the Digital Covid Certificate to ensure those travelling to and from Ireland can do so with ease and confidence,” added the spokesperson.
Aer Lingus is using some of its own aircraft to operate five of the routes that Stobart Air was operating for at least the next week. BA City Flyer will operate two.
While Stobart Air was hit hard by the Covid pandemic, pushing it deep into loss-making territory, it was experiencing some difficulties even prior to that. The Esken group had also been struggling.
Stobart Air's collapse came on the heels of a failed attempt by Esken to sell the airline to an Isle of Man start-up.
The government is under increasing pressure to properly tackle the re-opening of air travel and has been heavily criticised by the aviation sector for failing to do so.
Trade union Fórsa said the Government needs to “wake up” to the crisis.
“The government needs to decide if the crisis in this vital industry is to be permanent or temporary,” said Fórsa national secretary Ashley Connolly.