Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 20 Apr 1988

Vol. 379 No. 7

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Aer Lingus Fleet Replacement.


asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport the present position regarding fleet replacement for Aer Lingus.

As the Deputy will be aware from my reply to his previous question on 11 November 1987 the first phase in the Aer Lingus fleet replacement programme was implemented last autumn with the delivery of two new B737 — 300 aircraft. In November last following consideration of the matter by the Aer Lingus Inter-departmental Review Group, the Government approved the acquisition by Aer Lingus of four new B737 — 500 aircraft for delivery in late 1990 mainly to replace existing aircraft on the Continental European routes.

Aer Lingus have submitted recently to my Department a further proposal to acquire two new Boeing 737-400 aircraft for delivery in 1989 to serve anticipated growth in traffic on the Ireland—London routes.

This proposal is currently being examined by the Inter-departmental Review Group which is examining the whole question of Aer Lingus fleet replacement up to the mid-nineties and assessing the company's overall investment strategy and financing.

There are a number of specifics in the Minister's reply for which I thank him. May I take it that the most recent proposal in respect of 737-400s would not be involved in any reliance on State funding?

That is correct.

I am glad to hear that. In reply to a similar question in March last year, the Minister indicated that no decision in regard to funding a replacement fleet would be taken until the review body had reported. We were advised in November that that would be early this year. It was my understanding that there would be a report available to the Minister and to the House for discussion on the whole question of funding. It now appears that matters are moving along piecemeal. Can the Minister indicate if we can ever expect discussions on the whole future of replacement funding schemes?

The 300s, the 500s and the prospective 400s will deal with the London-Dublin and continental routes. The only other significant factor then is the replacement of the jumbos which is down the road in the nineties. It seems quite a rational way for dealing with it. There have been interim studies and reports and arising from these progress with regard to the 300s and the 500s has already been made.

I do not wish to repeat this but initially there were indications that the Minister was getting a report in principle on the whole question of funding. Is that position now abandoned in favour of the scheme for scheme so that there will not be an opportunity to discuss it?

I hope we will have plenty of opportunities to discuss Aer Lingus, their activities and their fleet. The position was that by March of 1987 a complete change took place in the thinking of Aer Lingus. Circumstances had changed. The dollar was weaker. Fuel was lower in price. Interest rates were more favourable and they were making better profits and that changed the scenario that existed before that. From that point, that is, from March of last year on, decisions have been taken step by step.

Since other airlines have been given licences to operate to Britain and to continental Europe in recent years, does the Minister feel there may not be a need for the smaller planes he is suggesting are required by Aer Lingus for those routes, given the greater competition from other airlines; that there may be an earlier need for an additional jumbo, given that Bord Fáilte are going ahead with the task force recommendations on a special programme for traffic to North America? Despite the change in the dollar, in another year or two we could have substantially increased traffic from the United States. There may be a need to change the type of plane and things may not be as they are at the moment.

I do not think the 300 could be called a small plane. It has 135 seats. The 400 has 153 seats and is a substantial plane. As I mentioned in my reply to the supplementary by Deputy McCartan, the jumbo is really a transatlantic requirement. As of now some people have written to me indicating that a smaller twin-engined plane will be able to deal with the Atlantic before very long, but I do not think there is any urgent need for a jumbo as of now.

We have encroached somewhat on Priority Time. I am calling now priority question No. 23 in the name of Deputy Martin Cullen.