During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland had the most stringent travel restrictions within Europe. The non-essential travel ban in Ireland was in place until well into the summer season. The inbound travel bans to the US — which covered the entirety of the Aer Lingus longhaul network — remained in place for over ten months of the year.
The impact has been profound: international travel to and from Ireland was less than 25 per cent of 2019 levels in 2021.
However, Ireland is an island nation. Irish people love to travel. And Ireland’s geographic position is a natural location for a successful North Atlantic hub. Therefore, whilst navigating the crisis, we have been readying ourselves for the recovery.
Our schedule for summer 2022 triples our capacity compared to summer 2021 and reaches 90 per cent of 2019 levels by the summer peak. We are reintroducing capacity during the first quarter of 2022 to be operationally ready for this summer peak.
Following constructive discussions with our pilot and cabin crew communities we have agreed structural changes covering both pay scales and working practices. These will make us more cost competitive and support future investment and growth.
2021 also saw a significant milestone with the creation and launch of our new subsidiary airline. This allows us to pursue longhaul market opportunities out of the UK and we commenced our first transatlantic services from Manchester in October.
The focus on liquidity continued throughout the year and a series of debt facilities were made available through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and IAG. Consequently, we finished the year in a firm liquidity position.