Aer Lingus is to receive almost €30m from the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the transport of vital supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Ireland from China in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The airline operated a life-saving PPE airbridge for 14 weeks from March 29 to June 26 between Dublin and Beijing, where 259 rotations between the two cities represented the largest cargo operation by air in the history of the State.
According to the HSE, Aer Lingus operated up to five flights a day over the 14 weeks and, in total, flew 4.75m km and transported 35,000 cubic metres or 4,000 tonnes comprising over 86m pieces of PPE.
New records released in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show Aer Lingus has lodged invoices totalling €30.3m to the HSE for the 259 flights.
The invoices show the €30.3m total includes Russian over-flight charges made to Aer Lingus of €641,814 for the use of Russian airspace that Aer Lingus is passing onto the HSE.
In total, Aer Lingus is to receive a total of €29.72m for its PPE work after account is taken of the Russian overflight charges.
The records show the HSE had paid €7.2m by the end of June to Aer Lingus and as of July 22, Aer Lingus had invoiced for a further €23.1m that had not yet been paid.
The average cost per flight to the HSE was €114,751 and the average Russian overflight charge was €3,116 concerning 198 of the 259 flights.
Providing context to the spend, the HSE FOI unit stated: “The environment in which procurement activity was conducted in response to the pandemic was unprecedented. All global healthcare systems faced enormous challenges in securing PPE necessary to manage and contain the pandemic.
“As part of the pandemic response, the HSE concluded an overarching framework agreement with China Resource Pharmaceutical Group for the supply of essential PPE.
“The transportation of this PPE in a timely manner was critical and necessary to the pandemic response. The HSE agreed Heads of Terms with Aer Lingus, our national carrier, to open a standing air-bridge between Dublin and Being on a cost plus basis."
The unit added: “A value-for-money review has been conducted by HSE and the rates proposed by Aer Lingus were considered competitive in the circumstances.”