On Wednesday 3 June, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, announced a proposal to establish a Task Force for Aviation Recovery. The taskforce is charged with developing and advising on the framework for restarting the Irish aviation industry.
On 23 June, the taskforce delivered its Interim Report to the Minister. In the Interim Report, the taskforce explained that they would deliver their final report by the 10 July deadline, but chose to submit an Interim Report because it had identified a small number of measures and decisions which it considered urgent and needing the immediate attention of the Minister and the Government. You can read our summary of the interim report here.
The final report was then delivered by the taskforce on 10July. In its final report, the taskforce makes a total of 12 recommendations, categorised into three sections, summarised below.
Protecting Public Health and Rebuilding Consumer Confidence
- Full transparency by Government on the metrics and data being used to decide the constitution of the “Green List” and its periodic update.
- The Government should develop a single, consistent, current (up to date), and accurate source for all consumer and citizen advice relating to international travel, potentially using the existing “TravelWise” app.
- A well-funded, very highly efficient test, track and trace scheme should be made widely available nationwide. Testing should be free, with quick turn-around of results.
- The National Code of Practice for Safe Air Travel should be finalised, adopted and implemented without any further delay.
Rebuilding Regional and International Connectivity
- Airlines should continue to pay all airport and air navigation charges applicable in Dublin Airport, with a rebate provided by the Government directly to the airlines (subject to State Aid approval).
- A stimulus package should be put in place for Cork, Shannon, Ireland West, Kerry and Donegal airports (subject to State Aid approval).
- The current waiver for 80:20 slot “use-it or lose-it” should be extended to apply for the winter 2020/2021 season also.
- The Government should adopt the interim recommendations from the Tourism Taskforce.
- The Government should enhance investment in the aviation sector, in particular for the costs to support transition to carbon neutral operations.
Saving Jobs and Supporting Irish Business
- The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme should be extended until June 2021, subject to review in light of economic developments in the meantime.
- Government should enable a liquidity initiative for the aviation sector, similar to those made available by other European Governments such as guarantees, credit lines and underpins for interest rates.
- Government should ensure that a sizeable amount of funding is drawn down for the Irish aviation sector from the “Next Generation EU” €750bn funding.
In addition to the above short- to medium-term recommendations, the taskforce further urges the Minister to initiate a process for considering a renewal of the National Aviation Policy, in order to set the national trajectory for the aviation sector for the current decade.
On receiving the Final Report, in a Government press release the Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport, Mr. Eamon Ryan, T.D. said:
“I wish to thank Chris Horn and the Taskforce Members for the Final Report, which clearly sets out the contribution that aviation makes to the Irish economy and the scale of the financial and operational challenges the sector is facing as a result of Covid-19. As the report acknowledges, there are difficult choices to be made, balancing public health with economic concerns. Aviation provides a large number of high value jobs, and it generates many more in the wider economy, and especially in the tourism sector. Protecting these jobs and people’s livelihoods is a priority for the Government. The Government is finalising plans to aid economic recovery, and the recommendations contained in this Report will contribute to our overall response to the aviation crisis.”
The Minister of State with responsibility for International and Road Transport and Logistics, Ms. Hildegarde Naughton, T.D. said:
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on our society and our economy, and the aviation sector has been badly affected. This Report is very timely and will assist the Government in finalising its approach to stimulating economic recovery and ensuring Ireland’s connectivity into the future. The recommendations are informed and measured, and I wish to thank the taskforce members for giving up their time and their expertise. Ireland is a global leader in aviation, and the Government is determined to ensure that it remains in that position. This report will assist us in that.”
In the report, the taskforce acknowledges Ireland’s envied leadership position in aviation, and the impact it has on the wider economy. It states that the Irish economy will not survive on the basis of a blanket policy of “essential travel” only, and that domestic staycations make up only a small fraction of the Irish tourism market. Furthermore, it states that much of our key business and services sectors cannot survive indefinitely with zoom-like calls, and face-to-face meetings are required for international business development, new commercial relationships, and market expansion – particularly important in the context of Brexit.
“As a peripheral island with an open internationally trading economy, the aviation sector has been fundamental to Ireland. It now urgently needs clarity, transparency and commitment from Government to rebuild.”
The full text of the Final Report can be accessed here.