The Chief Executive of Aer Lingus has said the airline has “good intent” with its plans to grow its routes at Irish airports but that a firm commitment would require more certainty around the Covid-19 situation as well as restrictions due to the pandemic.

Lynne Embleton was speaking as the airline reported an operating loss of €192 million for the first half of 2021.

This amount is on par with a loss of €189 million for the same six-month period last year.

Like other global airlines, Aer Lingus experienced a collapse in passenger revenue as restrictions on international travel were phased in following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Passenger revenue for the six month to the end of June came in at €33 million.

Cargo revenue came in at €31 million.

Ms Embleton said she wanted to get the airline back to growth but that there were a lot of impediments.

She said there has been an uptick in bookings since the lifting of the non-essential travel ban earlier this month, but that Aer Lingus is still only flying at a fraction of the capacity it had in 2019.

She added that the carrier’s traffic for the third quarter of this year is less than 40% of what it was for the same period two years ago.

The Chief Executive also said a large amount of damage was done to the airline by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as policies put in place in Ireland around restrictions to air travel.

This has done a lot of damage to Aer Lingus’ balance sheet, Ms Embleton said.

She said the airline has asked for support from the Government to help rebuild its route network, such as a rebate on airport charges.

Aer Lingus Regional

Regarding Aer Lingus’ regional service, which had been operated by Stobart Air until it collapsed in June, Ms Embleton said the airline had been reacting to get the regional routes covered but that the ultimate intent is to build up a partnership with Emerald Airlines to operate it regional service.

She said discussions with Emerald are progressing well and are close to a conclusion.

Ms Embleton also said Aer Lingus is “significantly smaller” than it was pre-Covid with around 1,200 fewer staff, with some employees availing of voluntary redundancy while some fixed-term contractors were let go.

She said future staffing will be dependent on Government policies.

The airline has been in contract discussions with pilots for some time and the CEO said progress was made yesterday with pilots to improve efficiencies.

The talks are aimed at helping Aer Lingus through the crisis in a way that protects pilot jobs, Ms Embleton said.

She added that the reduced schedule being flown is reflected in pilots’ pay, “which allows us to keep them on the payroll”.

Pilots have been on reduced pay, understood to be half of their normal pay, for some time.

Aer Lingus is part of the IAG group which reported a narrowing of its first-half loss to €2 billion.