Aer Lingus cries help

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The Independent Online
AER Lingus, the Irish state airline buffeted by the international recession and weighed down by debt, has turned to the government with an urgent call for cash.

Aer Lingus said it had presented an action plan to Brian Cowen, Transport Minister, yesterday. Aviation sources said the airline was seeking 500 redundancies, a 10 per cent wage cut from the remaining staff and a Ir pounds 300m ( pounds 314m) equity injection.

Its debts have soared in the past three years; it needs to fund a costly fleet replacement programme; joint venture talks with other airlines have failed and the value of its stake in GPA, the world's largest aircraft-leasing firm, has plunged.

'The group is between a rock and a hard place. This is a major crisis for the airline,' said John Conroy of NCB Stockbrokers.

'They could sell off their chain of (14) hotels. They are worth Ir pounds 100m. But that would be cutting off the hand that is feeding the group because the air transport side is losing money.'

Aer Lingus is now losing an estimated Ir pounds 10 a seat on the once lucrative Dublin-London route.