The Transport Council, at its meeting on 16 October, agreed a horizontal emergency aid package for all European airlines following the events of 11 September. This package essentially consisted of compensation for losses suffered by EU airlines as a result of the four day closure of US airspace from 11 September, coverage for insurance to end of the year and discretion for States to cover additional security costs. Since then, my Department has put arrangements in place in relation to the insurance cover. It has also written to Irish airlines outlining the basis for compensation for the four day closure of US airspace and the criteria to be used in applying for such compensation. Obviously, Aer Lingus will be a major beneficiary as it is the only Irish airline operating on the transatlantic route. However, such compensation will result in a relatively small amount of cash for Aer Lingus in the context of the current crisis.
In relation to security costs, my officials are in contact with Irish airport companies and airlines to establish the additional security costs attributable to the events of 11 September. I still believe that the compensation measures for all European airlines for the four day closure of US airspace is minimalist and insufficient, given the impact of the terrorist attacks, particularly when you take account of the US aid package. I am continuing to press for an extension of this measure and my officials have formally put the European Commission on notice that we will be making a strong case for the extension of this measure.
Deputies are aware, from my recent statements to the House, that the European Commission has been unyielding in its view that any State injection of funds into Aer Lingus would be in breach of the State aid rules. In any event, any such proposal would take a minimum of 12 months to be examined by the Commission. Notwithstanding this position of the Commission, my officials are reviewing all competition and State aid rules in consultation with the Attorney General's office.