Aer Lingus is to place a brand new aircraft which was only delivered last week in a storage programme in Spain due to the downturn in business triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a video message to staff delivered from on board the new aircraft, Chief Technical Officer Fergus Wilson said that with travel restrictions and the 14-day quarantine still applying, passenger demand remains extremely low. 

"The additional capacity that we added to our European schedule at the start of July has failed to perform to the level we had hoped - and with bookings for the coming weeks not showing an improvement, the remainder of this summer period now looks bleak," Mr Wilson said.

He confirmed that the number of inbound passengers on its three daily transatlantic services has fallen from 4,200 per day this time last year to just 150.

He said it had been planned that the newly-delivered aircraft would have entered service immediately as the airline reached the peak of summer 2020 season. 

"However, as a result of the continuing uncertainty surrounding international travel, we have taken the decision not to enter this aircraft into commercial service," Mr Wilson said.

"Instead it will join two other Aer Lingus A330s in a long-term storage programme at Ciudad Real airport in Spain." 

He told staff that parking the aircraft in a warm semi-arid climate like Spain would help to reduce the risk of corrosion and protect it from deteriorating due to lack of operation and environmental factors.  

He noted that placing an aircraft in long-term storage require strict and costly maintenance prescribed by manufacturer Airbus, which involves the completion of several checks and procedures both before and during the storage period - with further checks required ahead of any eventual return to operation. 

Mr Wilson confirmed that the airline is currently examining every opportunity across the business to reduce its "cash burn" - adding that placing the new aircraft in storage will reduce the cost of the ongoing maintenance bill, protect the asset value of the aircraft and allow the company to avail of cheaper parking fees. 

With this new aircraft entering long-term storage, Aer Lingus will have reduced its wide-bodied fleet from 15 aircraft to just five operational aircraft servicing just two routes - Dublin - JFK and Dublin - Chicago. 

"In fact, we could cover these two routes with as little as two aircraft but we are trying to maximise the number of operational aircraft to avoid the complexities and cost of putting them into parking or  storage programmes," Mr Wilson informed staff. 

As regards the remainder of the Aer Lingus fleet, he indicated that only three of their 4 A321 LR aircraft are in service serving Dublin - Boston and Dublin - Heathrow, while only 17 of the airline's 30-strong A320 fleet are operational.

These non-operational aircraft are mostly in storage in Dublin, Shannon and Cork. 

Mr Wilson also noted that SIPTU members this week rejected a Covid-19 Crisis Recovery Programme 2020 aimed at addressing the crisis at the airline. 

"For staff covered by the plan it would have allowed gradual restoration of pay and hours, and staff who had been laid off would have returned to work. That restoration of hours and pay will not now take place as planned," he said.  

Staff are currently on 30% of their pre-Covid pay and hours. 

Mr Wilson concluded by reiterating Aer Lingus's demand that the Irish Government should implement the recommendations of the Aviation Recovery Task Force Final Report, which outlined the urgent steps required to enable a recovery in the aviation and tourism sectors.