By Siobhan Cronin
THERE was strong support in Cork this week for the news that the government had agreed to support IAG’s bid to buy Aer Lingus.
Cork Airport MD Niall MacCarthy said the airport would ‘look to build on the excellent track record that Cork has, feeding business into the wider IAG network via Aer Lingus’ daily flights from Cork to Heathrow.’
‘Should the acquisition be completed, we look forward to working closely with Aer Lingus and its new owners to further expand IAG’s offering in the region, be that with Aer Lingus, British Airways, BA City Flyer, Vueling or Iberia,’ Mr MacCarthy added.
With Aer Lingus likely to join the Oneworld alliance following the completion of an acquisition by IAG, consumers would be able to book seamless connecting services to and from Cork Airport to a host of new destinations, he added.
The move was also welcomed by FG deputy Jim Daly, who recently hosted a meeting of interested parties, on the future of Cork Airport, in Inchydoney. ‘Following on from numerous conversations I have had with Minister Paschal Donohoe, and management at Cork Airport in the past few weeks, I am very confident that the best interests of Cork Airport have been addressed during the negotiations leading up to the sale,’ he told The Southern Star.
‘Aer Lingus is likely to join the Oneworld alliance after the sale, enabling passengers to begin their journey from Cork Airport to a whole host of new destinations. Intensive efforts are continuing to attract new routes for Cork Airport. I am anxious to see these succeed, particularly into Germany which will have a particular benefit for tourism in West Cork,’ Deputy Daly said.
Cork’s Chamber of Commerce also added its support for the move.
According to Conor Healy, the Chamber’s chief executive, the provisions of the offer are in line with the position advocated to Government by the Chamber in recent months.
‘We welcome the mechanisms to facilitate the legally binding guarantees to protect the current Cork-Heathrow slots for seven years, which is of paramount importance, given the criticality of these slots to safeguard Cork’s connectivity for the region’s business and tourism communities into the future,’ said Mr Healy.
‘Cork Chamber welcomes IAG’s commitments to maintain Cork’s current connectivity to Paris and Amsterdam and looks forward to working with IAG should the sale go ahead as part of IAG’s commitment to pursue further growth opportunities in the Munster region.’
Mr Healy also called for Cork to benefit from the New Connectivity Fund. Plans for such a fund, from potential sale proceeds, is very much welcome, he said. ‘Given the specific need for route development support at Cork Airport, due to falling passenger numbers, Cork Chamber is of the view that Cork needs to be a significant beneficiary of such funds, once available.’
‘Cork Chamber see’s this offer as a significant opportunity to capitalise on growth potential and secure enhanced air connectivity in the southern region and are hopeful of what IAG can potentially deliver for future connectivity from Cork to key destinations.’
Beara-based Finbarr Harrington, chairman of the recently-formed ‘Tourism West Cork’ said he hoped that the new owners of Aer Lingus would view Cork as an opportunity to capitalise on the airport’s hinterland . ‘Areas like West Cork and other scenic tourist destinations can only benefit from an outlook from IAG that Cork as a hub is not fulfilling its vast potential,’ he said.
‘I hope that IAG take a positive view and maximise their Cork assets rather than stripping Cork of its key international infrastructural gateways, which are integral to multinational firms and our important tourism economy.’
‘It would not be ideal if Aer Lingus focus solely on Dublin as their hub and forget Ireland’s second city and indeed largest county,’ he said.
But a note of warning was sounded by local Sinn Fein Cllr Rachel McCarthy: ‘I am not surprised by this sale from a government dedicated to selling off state assets, regardless of the cost to the state into the future. It is very disappointing and I have grave concerns for the effect it will have on Ireland’s connectivity into the future, as well as the threat it poses to workers in Aer Lingus and to deferred pension members.
‘IAG have no interest in Ireland and the government have failed to stand up for the interests of the country, instead seeking to make a quick profit as an election looms. Aer Lingus for years, has made Ireland an attractive destination. Its reputation for quality promotes a promotes a positive image of Ireland across the world.’