Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s former prime minister and current deputy prime minister, has told the parliament (Dáil) that the government is engaged in confidential talks with Aer Lingus (EI, Dublin Int'l) about further financial support and that the airline will survive the current crisis.

In response to questions raised by deputies on February 18 on the plight of the airline and its employees, Varadkar said that the state was already providing support via the country’s sovereign development fund - through which it took a EUR150 million euro (USD182 million) loan earlier this month - and through a wage subsidy scheme.

“I say very clearly that Aer Lingus will not be allowed to fail. It is already receiving substantial financial support from the government both through the employment wage subsidy scheme and funding through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. Confidential discussions are underway involving the [ministers of finance and transport] on further support for the company so it can be there when we need it again,” he assured.

“We are in discussions with Aer Lingus to see what we can do to make sure the airline survives the pandemic and is there to enable connectivity whenever we can get flying again,” he added.

In response to further questions, Varadkar elaborated: “When I say we will not let Aer Lingus fail, I do not want to create the impression that it is in any way about to fail or anything like that, just in case I am misunderstood. What I am saying is that we are providing a lot of financial support already. We will provide more to enable us to retain essential connectivity with London Heathrow, the United States, and key hubs in Europe, as well as for cargo.

“The sad truth is that the way things are going now it could be a long time before we see aviation recover. Some people are even saying we may have passed peak aviation. I am not saying that, but some people are. Saving all jobs and all routes may not be possible, but we want to protect the company and make sure it is there for essential connectivity in the future.”

Later in the debate, the deputy prime minister underlined that “the aviation sector is receiving much financial support from the government. Airlines are among the main beneficiaries of the employment wage subsidy scheme, the EWSS, receiving millions to help pay their staff [...] and there have been indirect grants to Dublin Int'l, Shannon, and to regional airports. That will continue but it cannot continue indefinitely if we do not allow people to fly again at some point when it is safe to do so.”