Aer Lingus announced last week it is to suspend its winter transatlantic flights from Shannon beginning next year due to significant loses in past years.
The Irish airline said it will suspend flights to and from New York and Boston for 11 weeks between January 5 and March 27 next year.
Aer Lingus said the suspension will affect four flights per week between Shannon and New York, and a further four flights per week between Shannon and Boston. However, the airline said it will continue to operate these services for the remaining nine months of the year.
It will be the first time in 52 years that trans-Atlantic flights will not operate from the historical and traditional stopover route of Shannon.
Aer Lingus said the airline has incurred “significant losses” during these winter months over the past 15 years. Figures released by the airline state that it loses on average *****11 million each year on the winter trans-Atlantic flights.
Chief Executive Christopher Mueller said, "Aer Lingus is committed to the Shannon market as an important part of our network.
"However, in order to maintain the viability of our Shannon trans-Atlantic operations throughout the remainder the year, the three month suspension of these routes when seasonal demand is at its lowest is crucial.
"We recently launched four new routes from Shannon to the U.K., under our Aer Lingus regional franchise with Aer Arann.
"Furthermore, extra capacity will be deployed at Shannon for winter 2010 with a larger A321 aircraft to service the Shannon Heathrow route."
A spokesperson for Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said, "The minister welcomes the fact that Aer Lingus has reiterated its commitment to the Shannon market.
“He regrets very much the decision to suspend flights for 11 weeks, but he is satisfied from a meeting he had with Aer Lingus today that it is maintaining employment at Shannon.”
The cancellation of flights is also causing upset in the west of Ireland.
Fine Gael’s deputy foreign affairs spokesman and Clare TD Pat Breen described the temporary route suspensions as a “body blow” for the traveling public in the west, and for multinational businesses based in the region.
“U.S. foreign direct investment makes a huge contribution to the midwest. Some 110 U.S. multinationals are based there, employing 11,000 people. A significant number of these companies rely on Aer Lingus’ trans-Atlantic services for transport and connectivity,” he said.
“This will also pose significant problems the IDA Ireland and Shannon Development in their efforts to attract additional U.S.-based multinationals to the area.
“For the first time in our history, the shamrock will not be flying out of Shannon Airport for St. Patrick’s Day next year,” Breen said.
He also attacked Aer Lingus’ lack of enthusiasm in “supporting the new U.S. pre-clearance facility” at Shannon.
“It begs the question as to what commitment if any Aer Lingus has to serving the trans-Atlantic market out of Shannon in the future.”
Continental Airlines and Delta Airlines will continue to run transatlantic flights from Shannon.