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Why Aer Arann must not be grounded by new crisis

It is important that Aer Arann survives its newest crisis.

Not just for those in Galway, Sligo and Donegal who use the service to travel to the capital. It is important for all of us.

Do we want our internal air services left in the hands of Michael O'Leary?

His planes cannot even land at most of our regional airports.

O'Leary has done his bit. Even before the ash cloud crisis of April the airlines had been through what it calls 'two years of loss-making trading.'

That was caused by Ryanair, who bled Aer Arann ferociously on its Dublin-Cork route and then snatched the grant-aided service to Kerry.

Then came the ash cloud which was blamed by the airline for its lurch into examinership.

A regional carrier makes a difference to the infrastructure of a nation. The loss of our premier carrier would wipe out tourism and investment opportunities we will never know about, never mind be able to estimate.

Footballers

The alternative of an internal air service is not just for millionaire businessmen on their way to a meeting.

It is for cancer patients who cannot handle a bus journey, footballers going to training, and thanks to the lead-in fares of f49, ordinary people on their way to Dublin for a day out, connecting to an onward flight and, crucially, the tourists who book through to an airport near their destination.

The story of European aviation has been dominated by the rise of the great low cost carriers of which Ryanair is the biggest and meanest. The rise of medium size carriers has been a bigger story for many communities.

Aer Arann has been the success story of European Regional Aviation, one of the first to look beyond national boundaries to increase its profile.

It won serial awards at the annual ERA conference and served as a model for similar services in other countries.

Unlike Ryanair and even Aer Lingus, it could not shift its operations offshore when Ireland hit turbulence in September 2008. What happens next is largely dependent on how the next ash cloud crisis, that of compensation, is resolved.

Aer Arann almost went to the great parking apron in the sky before and survived.

It is important once again that it survives and continues to serve us all, Whether we have ever flown on it or not.