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Estonian state-owned airline Nordica offers to take over Kerry to Dublin route

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Estonian state-owned airline Nordica, which operates PSO routes in Sweden, has offered to take on the Kerry to Dublin route left vacant by Stobart Air’s collapse, it is understood.

Contact was made with the airport over the weekend and the matter is now with the Department of Transport.

Talks had been underway for some months between Kerry Airport and several airline companies in anticipation Stobart Air facing difficulties continuing to operate the Kerry to Dublin route for the remaining seven months of its contract.

Approaches to Nordica were already at advanced stage when news emerged of Stobart Air’s immediate collapse at the weekend and are understood to have progressed further since.

Stobart operated the Aer Lingus Regional network, mainly connecting British regional airports with the Republic, under a deal that was due to run until next year.

It also operated Government-funded public service obligation (meaning the route is subsidised by the government) services between Dublin and Kerry and Dublin and Donegal.

Of the 12 routes immediately affected by Stobart Air’s decision to cease trading, Aer Lingus will operate five routes, and for at least the next week BA CityFlyer will operate two.

At the moment there are no plans to service the two regional routes from Kerry and Donegal to Dublin.

The Kerry to Dublin connection accounts for a third of passenger numbers for Kerry Airport and is considered vital. Other airlines including Emerald have also shown interest in the contract.

John Mulhern, chief executive of Kerry Airport said on Monday he was confident a replacement carrier was ready to step in.

“I am very confident, if the arrangements can be put in place, this may be a lot sooner than expected,” Mr Mulhern said, when asked if another airline could be found to maintain the four flights a day to and from Dublin.

The airport was braced for Stobart pulling out and it is owed less than €400, Mr Mulhern said.

The PSO contract process allows for a replacement carrier to be appointed, without going through the full tender process, should an appointed carrier cease to operate. This could see another carrier take on the remainder of the current contract relatively swiftly.

There are also contingency plans for dealing with a financial loss to the airport should the vacuum continue for the next seven months when the PSO contract is out to tender again.

Coincidentally this is the timeframe allowed for a replacement under provisions in the government funded public service obligation contract should a carrier cease to operate.

The subsidised route is considered vital for Kerry tourism and business and it serves an important role in carrying cancer patients and others for medical treatment in Dublin.

Passenger numbers had been growing prior to the pandemic and more than 58,000 people flew on Dublin Kerry route in 2019.

Numbers were gradually increasing again with flights about half full in recent weeks following a period of reduced passenger demand during the pandemic.

Staffing had also been reduced at the airport with private agreements reached with just under ten staff, he said.

Flights from Kerry to London, Franfurt Hahn, Faro and Alicante are set to return in July. The regional PSO four flights a day continued to operate throughout the Covid restrictions.

The airport is also trying to grow its private jet business.

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Switzerland’s Credit Suisse settles with star banker over spying scandal

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CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.

As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.

“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.

Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS. 

At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.

In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.

He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.

The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.



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Three Cork publicans prepare to begin trade again

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Pensioners who like to read the paper as they enjoy a few leisurely pints are the cohort most excited by the resumption of indoor service in pubs, according to a Cork city publican who has only traded for two weeks since March 2020.

Michael O’Donovan, who owns the Castle Inn, says his regulars have been phoning to check what time he is opening on Monday, with some saying they have not had a social outing since the start of the pandemic.

“We know all our regulars on a first-name basis. We have a man who comes in and has two or three pints on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He will read the paper but he will watch the world go by at the same time,” he said.

“He will chat when he wants to chat. He is in his late 70s and he wouldn’t have been out [socially] in 15 months.”

Mr O’Donovan said it has been a surreal time but was hopeful that better days were coming.

“We will adapt and get on with all the changes we have to make with how we do business,” he said. “It is difficult in that we never wanted to be asking people about their health status. We have to be cautious but it is another step in getting life back to the way we knew it.”

‘It has been a struggle’

Danny Collins was looking forward to reopening the Boston Bar in Bantry, west Cork after a year of many sleepless nights due to worries about keeping the business afloat.

“I have been going through my savings to pay the mortgage as we were only open for a couple of weeks last year,” the independent councillor said.

“It has been a struggle. Of course there were other bills as well. To have your pub cameras, you had to pay the internet bill. I was also advised to keep my cooler system running. In the winter, I had to put on the heating.”

Mr Collins said he was apprehensive about all the different regulations that will have to be complied with as indoor service returns, such as staffing all entrances, and that finding employees had been a struggle for those in the sector.

“I think the PUP [Pandemic Unemployment Payment] should be reviewed at this point,” he said.

‘We can’t wait to open’

In Cork city, publican Ernest Cantillon will be opening Electric bar/restaurant and Sober Lane bar this week.

During the pandemic, he set up an online cocktail sales business and sold takeaway food, allowing him to keep a core team of about 15 people employed despite his business only opening as a traditional pub for a couple of weeks last year.

“We have also shifted to a new model of opening four evenings a week,” he said. “We are opening next Wednesday through Saturday and then staff will have three days off. That has been a key factor in staff retention and recruitment. We are going to give it a go. We can’t wait to open.”

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Germany’s flood zones spared severe storms on Saturday

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In the west of the country, the fire brigade reported a quiet night in the flood areas in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine Westphalia.

The situation remains tense, however, with local thunderstorms forecast in some parts of Germany from midday on Sunday — most likely south of the Danube.

Further heavy rain and hail were also possible again, according to the German Weather Service (DWD), which publishes storm warnings.

READ ALSO: WEATHER: German flood zones at risk of further storms

The latest storms came just days after parts of the country were hit by devastating floods after torrential rains that ravaged entire villages and left 180 people dead, hundreds injured and with many still missing.

The flooding also caused damage in Belgium, where 37 people died, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.



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