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CityJet and Stobart Air asked government for six-month bailout to ensure their survival after Covid-19

The airlines accounted for over 13% of air traffic at Ireland’s airports before the pandemic.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

TWO REGIONAL AIRLINES asked the government for a six-month bailout to ensure their survival beyond the Covid-19 crisis.

In a co-signed letter to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in April, Stobart Air and CityJet said they required “immediate grant support in order to survive” the pandemic.

The airlines accounted for over 13% of total air traffic at Ireland’s airports before the pandemic, when they also employed over 1,700 staff between them.

The letter, released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act, came days after the High Court appointed an interim examiner to CityJet, which is based in Dublin but is best known for flying routes out of London City Airport.

The previous month, Stobart Air – also based in Dublin -  ceased all international flights due to what it described as an “unprecedented” drop in demand as a result of Covid-19.

In their letter to Donohoe, Stobart Air’s Managing Director Andy Jolly and CityJet CEO Pat Byrne warned that regional airlines were not viable without a steady income.

They also warned that ongoing fixed costs were “eating away at evaporating cash reserves while aircraft sit on the ground with a dramatic collapse in revenues”.

“There will undoubtedly be a resurgence in demand for regional flying across both northern Europe (in the case of CityJet) and Britain and Ireland (in the case of Stobart Air),” they continued.

“These two Irish companies should be preserved to meet that demand.”

The letter asked the government to follow other European countries by showing “decisive and unwavering support” in the form of capital grants for six months, claiming this would support up to 1,000 Irish jobs in the long-term.

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However, it also criticised the government for failing to assist the sector sooner.

“It is surprising and disappointing that the prominence of the commercial aviation business, which accounts for 88% of overseas travel to Ireland is currently being overlooked in the overall success of the state,” Jolly and Byrne wrote.

Jolly and Byrne added that they would seek to participate in the economic recovery after the crisis, and said they would await a review of the matter by Donohoe.

On Friday, Aer Lingus announced up to 500 job losses as a result of the impact of Covid-19, which it said was having a “catastrophic effect on the aviation industry”.

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