Ireland Says Aer Lingus Suffering
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ Irish national airline Aer Lingus has lost 80 percent of its passengers on financially crucial routes to the United States, but should not expect to receive emergency financial support, the government said Thursday.
Public Enterprise Minister Mary O’Rourke told lawmakers that Aer Lingus faces serious financial trouble because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The airline’s U.S. traffic has plunged 80 percent and travel to Britain and other European destinations is off 30 percent, she said.
But O’Rourke rejected opposition lawmakers’ demands for the government to provide emergency aid to Aer Lingus. She said the 15-nation European Union, of which Ireland is a member, bans subsidies to state-owned airlines that compete with private airlines.
``Neither the European Commission nor the government would support any return to a regime of state aid for unviable airlines,″ said O’Rourke, who earlier this year shelved government plans to try to privatize Aer Lingus.
Traditionally the airline’s U.S. services account for about 60 percent of the airline’s profits and 40 percent of its revenue.
But after the attacks the airline announced it would discontinue service to Washington and Newark, N.J. as part of a plan to reduce costs by 25 percent.
Aer Lingus on Wednesday notified the government it plans to lay off at least 600 employees starting Nov. 7. The airline, which was losing money even before the U.S. attacks, plans to trim up to 1,700 jobs.
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