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Union calls for government assistance for workers after Ryanair regional flight suspension

Ryanair will halt all flights from Irish regional airports between 14 November and 12 December.

File image of a Ryanair plane.
File image of a Ryanair plane.
Image: Sam Boal

Updated Oct 28th 2020, 8:29 PM

TRADE UNION SIPTU has called on the government to provide assistance to aviation workers outside Dublin following Ryanair’s announcement today it would suspend all regional airport flights for a month. 

Ryanair announced this afternoon that it would only operate flights from Dublin Airport in Ireland from 14 November to 12 December. 

This led to Ireland West Airport in Knock, Co Mayo announcing it will close for this period of time. 

SIPTU sector organiser Neil McGowan described it as a “devastating blow to workers”. 

“There has been a lack of urgency by government in tackling the crisis in the aviation industry and this has had a devastating impact on Cork, Shannon and Knock airports,” he said in a statement.  

He said it is now “essential” for the Minister of State for International and Road Transport Hildegarde Naughton to meet with SIPTU representatives. 

Union organiser Tony Caroll said this announcement “will see further and immediate lay-offs, job losses, more redundancies and a further erosion in the incomes of airport workers in the run up to Christmas.”   

Cutbacks

In a statement, Ryanair said this cutback measure was necessary due to a “complete collapse in travel demand” as a result of Covid-19 restrictions in place. 

Following this, the Ireland West Airport said it would close for the four-week period. In a statement, the airport described this as “a further devastating blow”.

“Passenger numbers this year have plummeted by over 90% with annual passenger numbers now forecasted to decline to less than 150,000 for the full year – the lowest in over 20 years,” the airport said. 

It said it is calling on the government to “provide urgent support” through an expanded regional airports programme to help address the financial losses caused by the drop in passenger traffic due to the pandemic. 

On 15 October, Ryanair announced its reduced winter schedule which would reduce capacity to 40% compared to last year. 

This was cut back further with the announcement today. 

“Operations will resume on 13 Dec ahead of the Christmas season to allow Irish families to reunite,” Ryanair said. 

The Department of Transport described this as a “commercial” decision in a statement issued this evening. 

“This development is not entirely unexpected, given the low booking rates to the end of this year,” the department said. 

It added that the government will “consider further measures” to support the industry and ensure its core capability is protected so it can recover quickly. 

There is no doubt that the challenges being faced by airlines and the aviation industry as a whole are immense and the Irish Government remains committed to the survival and recovery of this sector when appropriate.

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The department added that the government is seeking to “strike an appropriate balance between protecting public health and allowing air travel to take place”. 

Mary Considine, the CEO of the Shannon Group which operates Shannon Airport, today called for an “urgent financial lifeline” for the airport and a support package for the aviation sector. 

“We are extremely disappointed with the news; it is a further illustration of the devastating impact of the pandemic on the aviation sector,” she said in a statement.

This latest development effectively means we will have no scheduled services at Shannon for a month.

“If it is to revive and recover, the aviation sector needs a financial lifeline to resuscitate it.”

The airport will remain open to service cargo, general aviation, transit business and to facilitate hangar movements.   

In Cork, president of the Chamber Paula Cogan said the decision will “have a deep impact for tourism, hospitality, arts and aviation in the region”. 

“With the right supports and protocols in place there is no doubt that Cork Airport can continue to deliver for the region,” she said. 

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