Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar has said that he would prefer Aer Lingus to use Aer Lingus cabin crew on new transatlantic flights from Shannon if at all possible.

Cabin crew at the airline have voted to take industrial action in a dispute over rosters and the threatened closure of the cabin crew base at Shannon.

Management said last month that it was outsourcing crewing on the new Shannon routes after the union refused to operate them with fewer cabin crew on board the smaller planes being leased for the services.

Responding to a question on the dispute from Labour TD Michael McNamara in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said it would be "very regrettable" if the Aer Lingus cabin crew base in Shannon were to close.

He said it was certainly his preference that the base should remain open and that the staff should be "normal" Aer Lingus employees.

Mr Varadkar said that view would be communicated to Government members on the Aer Lingus board.

However, he warned that the only way to achieve that was for IMPACT and Aer Lingus to come to an agreement in Friday's talks at the Labour Relations Commission.

The minister also stressed that the new services would have to be commercially viable.

He welcomed the new transatlantic routes from Shannon announced by Aer Lingus, saying they would result in an increase of 50,000 passengers next year on those routes

Mr Varadkar said that decisions regarding the company's employees based in Shannon was a commercial matter for the Aer Lingus board and management.

The minister also warned that industrial action at the company could be very disruptive for passengers in the run-up to Christmas, as well as damaging the company.

Mr McNamara asked whether this latest development was in the best interests of the company as a former flag carrier airline.

The Clare TD asked what sort of service the airline would provide for passengers if fewer cabin crew were on board.

Mr McNamara also noted that the 30 new recruits who had commenced training for the new routes had been "summarily fired" after the decision to outsource the services and said that was no way to treat people.

Yesterday, cabin crew overwhelmingly backed industrial action up to and including strike action in a row over rosters and the threatened closure of the Shannon cabin crew base.

It is understood that both management and IMPACT have accepted the invitation to attend the talks at the LRC from Director of Conciliation Kevin Foley.

However, the talks will only address the Shannon issue and not the cabin crew grievances over alleged breaches of agreements on rosters.

There are 87 Shannon-based staff facing the prospect of redeployment to Dublin or Cork, voluntary severance, leave of absence to work for ASL Aviation, or redundancy.

Sources at the airline warned that while there was still some scope to resolve the row, the parties were on "borrowed time" as the first flights on the new routes from Shannon were scheduled for 6 January.