Aer Lingus raised concerns over transatlantic flights

SENIOR management at Aer Lingus raised concerns about the future of its transatlantic flights from Shannon in communications with the Department of Transport, it has emerged.

The airline’s deputy chief executive Niall Walsh warned the introduction of new security measures for transatlantic flights could risk their viability.

A document obtained by the Irish Examiner quotes from an email sent from John Murphy, assistant secretary in charge of aviation at the Department of Transport, to the department’s secretary general Julie O’Neill on July 27.

In it Mr Murphy refers to information received from the airline. He said: “N Walsh (Niall Walsh, deputy chief executive of Aer Lingus) commented that the capacity of Shannon Airport to ensure no increase in charges is crucial. Shannon have advised that introduction of full US customs and border facilities at Shannon will involve an increase of charges 10-15 per passenger.

“US carriers will benefit from reductions in charges on the US side but at JFK, Aer Lingus will not, unless they relocate to a domestic terminal and as they are committed to T4 in JFK to 2015, this would cost them €10 million. We will follow this up with the Dublin Airport Authority.”

Mr Murphy did preface his comments to Ms O’Neill by saying he had indicated “our” concern about impact of loss of the Shannon-Heathrow service, from an aviation and regional policy perspective and that the department would raise that with Dermot Mannion.

“I also set out the importance of managing the transition of Shannon Airport to enable it to operate competitively in an open skies regime, the efforts made by DAA/SAA to date and the State aids constraints on providing financial support to the airport. I emphasised the importance of the commitment of Aer Lingus to Shannon.”

Last night, Aer Lingus said it would not be commenting on the contents of the email except to reaffirm its commitment to the transatlantic flights from Shannon for the immediate future.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said: “The department are currently in talks on new pre-clearance checks at the airport and what the implications would be. At this stage we are only in negotiations and there are no indications as to what the charges would be.”

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