We must support the leaner and more efficient Aer Arann

The news that came out of the High Court yesterday afternoon that there is a reasonable chance of Aer Arann surviving is one that should be welcomed most especially here in the west. Our local airport is dependent on Aer Arann for giving us the type of connectivity to the major UK and Irish cities that a major city like Galway needs.

The airline which suffered losses of more than €18 million in the past 30 months, applied to the High Court for examinership on August 26 last with the result of Mr Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton being appointed interim examiner.

The airline’s representatives were back in court yesterday where it was decided that the company would be placed under a period of examinership for 50 days. The decision has been described as very positive by Aer Arann which must spend this time wisely and put in place a viable survival plan. In 50 days time, it is hoped that the company will exit this period of examinership and emerge a slimmer, leaner and more efficient company and not one that will incur the heavy losses of the past few years.

We have known for some time that in a competitive business like the aviation industry, the odds were always going to work against smaller airlines like Aer Arann, but the sheer scale of the losses over the past few years, even pre-dating the volcanic ash crisis, indicate that there is a need for greater efficiencies if the company is to survive. While the ash crisis may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, there is no doubt that the previous losses were a millstone around its neck.

However Aer Arann is a company that was built and constructed against the odds, and while there is much made of the fact that it needs the Government subsidies to survive, we here in the west should not care too much about this. Do the riders of the Luas each morning worry about how much of the taxpayer’s purse went in to giving them the service. You can bet they don’t.

That possibility of Aer Arann’s survival is obviously a very strong one, because 14 different groupings have made clear their interest in acquiring or investing in the company and that is good news for the company but also for the regions which it serves.

Of course, we do not know what the new slimmed down Aer Arann will look like, but it is one that needs greater support from customers here in the region, if we are not to be totally cut off from the rest of the world. I know we have Knock and Shannon, but they still do not offer the convenience of having our own airport with a fat timetable of flights. And even Shannon yesterday felt the cold swipe of the Ryanair tail — with the news that routes are to be cut by the low-cost airline.

Details of negotiations with some of these 14 companies interested in Aer Arann and of the possibility of the company’s survival will be contained in a progress report to be presented to the High Court on October 11, so we will have to wait until then to hear the consequences of the process for the company. It will be a worrying time for some of the employees and we hope that as many as possible retain their jobs. Supporting our local airport and our local airline will go some way towards achieving the viability that will do this.

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