The general manager of both the Cork International Hotel and Cork Airport Hotel, Aaron Mansworth, said any potential loss of connectivity arising from the sale of Aer Lingus to International Airlines Group (IAG) would significantly hurt the two businesses, which depend heavily on custom from the airport and could jeopardise jobs.
More than 100 part-time and full-time staff are employed at the two hotels.
With connectivity on other routes at the airport already a concern, any reduction of Cork to Heathrow routes would adversely impact on the hotels, both owned by Philips Hotel Group.
Mr Mansworth also raised concerns over the impact any reduction in Heathrow slots could have on the city, particularly with large-scale projects such as the recently confirmed convention centre set to get underway.
“Connectivity is difficult at the moment on certain routes and it can be quite a challenge, but what I’d be thinking as well is the likes of the convention centre coming down the line.
“We’re going to have a 6,000 seat convention centre that you’re trying to fill with international conferences and events and I just think of what that could mean, particularly with the Heathrow slots,” said Mr Mansworth. “Heathrow at the moment is critical from a tourism point of view for all of us.”
The hotels’ manager urged the Government to retain its stake in the airline and questioned the value in pursuing guarantees from IAG on their plans.
The only way to guarantee absolute certainty around the retention of connectivity with Heathrow is to keep part ownership of Aer Lingus, the hotel manager said.
“How strong can guarantees be; would it be a one- year guarantee, two years? What if there’s a change of leadership, does that have an impact? I think at times the only way you can have a guarantee is to own the asset and [otherwise] that would be a concern,” said Mr Mansworth.
His comments echo those of Cork Chamber of Commerce, trade unions, and politicians, among others, who have expressed concern over the sale of Aer Lingus.