Aer Lingus is “still being damaged” by Covid, says CEO Lynne Embleton

Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton said the airline’s balance sheet was “still badly damaged by Covid” and has defended a decision to build a base in Manchester to serve routes to the United States and the Caribbean.

The airline chief spoke before the Oireachtas Joint Transport Committee on Wednesday as it debated the country’s national aviation policy.

Aer Lingus is part of the IAG Group, which also owns British Airways, Iberia and Vueling.

Airlines around the world have been hit by the Covid pandemic as flights grounded.

Aer Lingus received nearly €60m in government support during the pandemic but lost €1m a day in the depths of the crisis.

“Even with wage support, which was very welcome and was absolutely to keep people in employment who would otherwise have lost their jobs… we lost a million euros a day,” Ms Embleton told the committee. “Our balance sheet is still badly damaged by Covid,” she added.

Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (Isif) provided Aer Lingus with a €150m credit facility in 2020 and earlier this year Isif provided the airline with a €200m credit facility with a three-year maturity.

Aer Lingus lost €361 million in 2020 and made an operating loss before exceptional events of €347 million in 2021. However, with the easing of pandemic restrictions, the company has returned to profitability.

Ms Embleton was questioned by committee members about why the airline set up a base in Manchester last year.

“We had planes grounded and couldn’t leave Ireland,” she said. “As soon as Ireland could fly to the US, we flew from Ireland to the US. At the same time we flew from Manchester to the USA. Those two things were completely unrelated.

“This is about building a strong future for Aer Lingus,” said the CEO.

“When these routes mature, it will bring more money into the group, but more importantly, it improves Aer Lingus’ presence and the Aer Lingus brand in the US and the UK – two important markets.”

In a statement to the committee, Ms Embleton said that while the airline welcomes the new runway that opened at Dublin Airport earlier this year, supporting infrastructure needs to be provided.

“The development of this hub infrastructure remains critical, particularly if the opportunities presented by the opening of the new north runway are to be realized,” she said. Aer Lingus is “still being damaged” by Covid, says CEO Lynne Embleton

Fry Electronics Team

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