Northern Ireland news

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

Aer Lingus will cease its Belfast City Airport to Heathrow service at the end of October, union says, blaming Brexit

AER Lingus flights between Belfast and Heathrow are being axed with a union blaming Brexit for the move.

Dublin-based trade union Fórsa said Aer Lingus cabin members working on the long-standing route between London and Belfast City Airport will be redeployed at the end of the month.

It said the decision is linked to the Irish carrier’s air operators certificate (AOC) expiring at the end of October.

The union claims Aer Lingus, which is owned by Madrid registered IAG, has been “prohibited” by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) from operating internal domestic flights.

Consequently, the route is to be taken over by British Airways, which is also part of the IAG group.

Fórsa said of the 30 staff employed by Aer Lingus on the Heathrow route, 13 will be redeployed to customer support roles in Belfast, while 14 will switch to Dublin. According to the union, another three workers have opted to take a period of unpaid leave. It effectively means the main Aer Lingus carrier will no longer operate in Northern Ireland.

The Aer Lingus Regional service at Belfast City Airport, which is operated by Emerald Airlines on a franchise basis, is not impacted by the development.

The CAA said it had not prohibited any airline from operating in the UK, but said the rules have changed for EU carriers under the post-Brexit UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

"After the UK left the European Union, all UK-based airlines have to operate under a UK operating licence which governs the traffic rights they may hold. Under current legislation and international agreement, EU carriers such as Aer Lingus, are not permitted to operate scheduled services on UK domestic routes."

The CAA said post-Brexit, Aer Lingus has operated the Belfast to Heathrow service for 24 months on what's known in the aviation industry as a 'wet-leased capacity arrangement', which was never intended as a permanent solution.

“We’ve been flexible with Aer Lingus to find a sustainable solution which satisfies both the requirements of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement that no longer relies on the wet-leasing arrangements," added a CAA spokesperson.

Fórsa official Eugene Gargan said the loss of the Belfast City to London route will be “hugely disruptive” for the Aer Lingus staff involved.

“This is, unfortunately, another unforeseen and disastrous consequence of Brexit,” he said.

“The cabin crew in Belfast were offered the option of redeployment to Manchester or Dublin, or to other duties in Belfast.

“These are a group of workers who have helped the company establish a prosperous route between Belfast and London.

“As a consequence of the disruptive effect of Brexit on integrated flight operations across Europe, the crew have lost remuneration, absorbed increased working costs and endured disruption to their home and work lives,” he added.

Aer Lingus was contacted for comment.

Northern Ireland news