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Irish Voice News
New Airline for Shannon?
August 30, 2007
By Paddy Clancy
A BRITISH airline is poised to take over the Shannon-London Heathrow service being abandoned by Aer Lingus.
Secret talks between BMI and Shannon executives have been underway since the Irish airline revealed its controversial decision more than three weeks ago.
Shannon Airport confirmed that talks have been held but insist they are only in a preliminary stage, but informed political and business sources in the midwest region say there is serious negotiation with BMI and there has been good progress.
One senior Shannon executive said, “The talks have been going very well and we may be very close to a deal. But it is a sensitive issue and, with all the fuss over the Aer Lingus move and pressure on the government to force a u-turn, nobody wants to say anything at the moment.”
BMI operates several hundred flights a day to a variety of destinations from Heathrow, but it is known to be unhappy about some of the services.
Consequently, news that it is interested in establishing a Heathrow- Shannon link has surprised many.
One prominent Lime-rick businessman said, “BMI know that, with Shannon desperate to retain the Heathrow link, there is an opportunity to strike a favorable deal.”
News of the BMI negotiations leaked as government ministers were preparing for the first full Cabinet meeting since Aer Lingus announced its intention to quit the Shannon-Heathrow link and switch to Belfast where a Heathrow service, with ready onwards connections to other European cities for the northern business community, is likely to bring greater profits.
Although pressure has continued on the government to use its 25% stake in Aer Lingus to force a u-turn, there has been some diminution of intensity of the campaign over the past week.
Limerick City Council dropped a motion calling for a boycott of Aer Lingus, although it still demanded that the government use its shareholding to ensure the continuation of the Shannon-Heathrow service.
Meanwhile, Aer Lingus pilots who called off a two-day strike at the 11th hour in protest at what they claimed would be inferior working conditions at Belfast, said they are still in dispute with the company.
Talks at the Labor Court between the pilots and the airline are set to resume on Friday this week.
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