Aer Lingus say Belfast base closure now likely amid Brexit impasse

Aer Lingus had operated flights between Belfast and Heathrow for 15 years.
Aer Lingus had operated flights between Belfast and Heathrow for 15 years. Aer Lingus had operated flights between Belfast and Heathrow for 15 years.

AER Lingus has admitted it is now likely its base at Belfast City Airport will close next year over a Brexit-related impasse, putting 29 jobs at risk.

The airline has commenced consultation with staff in Belfast and the Fórsa trade union in an effort to avoid, reduce or mitigate the redundancies.

The Irish News first revealed in October how regulatory changes following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU had impacted Aer Lingus’ traffic rights as a carrier within the UK market.

Since Brexit, all UK-based airlines have had to operate under a UK operating licence. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said EU carriers such as Aer Lingus are not permitted to operate scheduled services on UK domestic routes.

Aer Lingus, which is owned by the Madrid-based IAG, had operated just one service in Northern Ireland between Belfast City Airport and Heathrow.

READ MORE: Brexit 'blocking' Irish airline Aer Lingus from operating through Belfast, union claims

Some of the staff have been based in Belfast since the service launched 15 years ago. Sources familiar with the situation said the crew have been left “deeply upset” by the developments just days before Christmas.

It’s understood that transfers and enhanced severance packages are among the options being discussed with staff.

Aer Lingus’ sister IAG carrier British Airways has taken over all its Heathrow flights since the start of November.

The airline said any passengers who have booked flights will still fly as scheduled, but on a BA plane.

The Aer Lingus Regional enterprise, which is operated by Emerald Airlines on a franchise basis, is not affected.

In a statement, Aer Lingus said: “Despite constructive discussions with the relevant authorities in the UK, we have to date been unable to identify a viable solution.

“We have therefore advised our Belfast based staff of the likelihood that we will have to cease our Belfast-London Heathrow operation, which we have operated for 15 years, with effect from 26 March 2023, leading to the closure of our Belfast base.”

The airline said in the event it pulls out of Belfast, customers with flight bookings beyond March 25 2023 will be contacted by Aer Lingus by the end of January 2023, to provide alternative flight arrangements or a refund.