Covid-19 costs Aer Lingus € 1bn in lost profits and consumption of cash, chief executive says

More than 15 months of Covid-19 losses and wiped out profits have cost Aer Lingus around € 1 billion, its chief executive Lynne Embleton estimated on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee, Ms Embleton pointed out that Aer Lingus continued to lose € 1 million a day to government travel restrictions in the event of a pandemic.

However, she said that the “swing between generating cash and burning cash” over the past 15 to 16 months has been closer to a billion euros. “No business can suffer € 1 billion in damages,” Ms. Embleton added.

The Aer Lingus chief observed that additional restrictions on unvaccinated travelers from Britain and the government considering continuing with further restrictions dampened optimism over plans to reopen travel on July 19 .

“It seems too little too late to really have a meaningful rebound that will put us on track to restore connectivity and jobs,” she said.

“We’re going to have a wet firecracker a summer,” Ms. Embleton predicted, adding that this had obvious financial implications for the airline.

She dubbed the government’s demands that will force unvaccinated children traveling from Britain and the United States with vaccinated parents to self-isolate upon arrival here as “anti-family.”

This rule will not apply to families arriving from EU countries after travel reopens in July and the introduction of the Covid digital certificate, Ms Embleton argued.

She stressed to politicians that in the short term Aer Lingus needed the government to treat British and American travelers the same as those in the EU.

Adopting faster, cheaper antigen tests for travel instead of the more expensive and slower state-required PCR testing would remove another barrier to travel, the airline chief said.

Shannon Closure

Ms Embleton told members that Aer Lingus’ decision to close its base at Shannon Airport was aimed at boosting its ability to restore flights.

“We are not going to reverse this decision, it is the right decision to fly Aer Lingus, generating money and jobs,” said Embleton.

However, she added that closing the base did not mean withdrawing from Shannon. “We want to fly to the regions,” added the head of the airline.

She also confirmed that the company is in discussions with the Irish State Strategic Investment Fund about a new loan.

Aer Lingus borrowed 150 million euros from the fund last year on commercial terms. Ms Embleton said the airline is looking for cash wherever it can find it.

Along with the rest of its industry, Aer Lingus has called on the government to extend the wage subsidy program for employees until next year.

The airline is also looking for programs to reduce airport charges and aid to stimulate weaker routes.

She and Aer Lingus chief executive Donal Moriarty criticized the state for apparently failing to provide up-to-date figures on infection rates to EU or state disease control centers -United.

Members of the EU and other countries share this information. Mr Moriarty noted that the US Center for Disease Control appeared to have been updated in the past 24 hours, but not its European counterpart.

This meant the Republic was ‘grayed out’ on the European Center for Disease Control’s Covid traffic light map.

The EU’s traffic light system classifies regions as red, orange or green based on infection rates, but shades for which there is no up-to-date information in gray.

The two Aer Lingus executives have warned that failure to update the Republic’s Covid rates was “another obstacle to travel.”

It is understood that the recent cyberattack on the Health Service Executive system caused the problem.

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