Aer Lingus eyes Cork-US service with new jets, says IAG boss
Aer Lingus is considering flights between Cork and the United States, in a move that would put it in direct competition with Norwegian, which hopes to start such services this summer.
Willie Walsh, the chief executive of Aer Lingus owner IAG, told the Irish Independent the airline group is examining a possible purchase of a new single-aisle aircraft type that would be able to reach the east coast of the US from Cork.
"A transatlantic service from Cork becomes an opportunity," said Mr Walsh, who is a former chief executive of Aer Lingus. "We looked at it when I was at Aer Lingus, and I'm sure that it's something we will look at again. It's much more viable from an economic point of view with a smaller-gauge aircraft."
Such an additional service - which could still be three years away - would be another transformational development for Cork, but could also spell trouble for Shannon if more passengers are lured away from the west coast airport.
Mr Walsh said that IAG, which acquired Aer Lingus last year for €1.36bn and which also owns British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, is considering buying the Airbus A321LR, an aircraft that would be able to accommodate about 206 passengers, with 16 business class seats and 190 in economy.
First deliveries of the aircraft to airline customers are due in 2019.
"We're actively considering the A321LR for Aer Lingus," said Mr Walsh.
"We think that aircraft could be a very effective aircraft on the Aer Lingus transatlantic network and open up some new opportunities." Mr Walsh said Aer Lingus, which is headed by chief executive Stephen Kavanagh, could use the new aircraft to operate routes where there is not sufficient passenger demand to justify using a larger aircraft.
Norwegian Air International also intends to use smaller aircraft to fly between Cork and the US.
Mr Walsh said Aer Lingus could target more secondary destinations in the United States using the new Airbus.
Aer Lingus already leases a 177-seater Boeing 757 aircraft to operate some services between Ireland and the US. Mr Walsh said the new Airbus could replace those jets in a few years.