Aer Lingus and Spanair in code-share agreement bid
Aer Lingus has applied to the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) to operate a code-share agreement between Europe and the US with Barcelona-based carrier Spanair. The move will further cement an existing relationship between the Irish airline and United Airlines.
The Spanair partnership is also likely to reignite speculation that Aer Lingus is working on plans to rejoin an airline alliance once its restructuring has been completed. Spanair is part of the Star Alliance group, of which United Airlines, which recently agreed to merge with rival Continental, is also a member.
Aer Lingus has told the US DOT that it wants to commence the code-share agreement on September 1 and has asked the agency to green-light the link-up quickly so that services can be marketed "immediately upon approval".
Aer Lingus began a joint venture with United Airlines last March where the Irish airline operates a direct service from Washington DC's Dulles Airport to Madrid.
The service is co-marketed by Aer Lingus and United Airlines, while Aer Lingus aircraft are used to operate the route. It is believed to have been successful to date.
It is intended that the code-share agreement between Aer Lingus and Spanair will apply to point-to-point routes between the US and the European Union and the European Common Aviation Area. The airlines have also said the code-share agreement would apply to any services beyond the US and the European Union.
An Aer Lingus spokesman confirmed, however, that the code-share would be targeted towards the Washington-Madrid service, enabling onward connections from the Spanish capital for passengers.
Earlier this year, United Airlines also applied to the US DOT to secure agreement for a code-share it established with Spanair. Spanair was previously a fully-owned subsidiary of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) .
However, it is now 80pc-owned by Iniciatives Empresarials Aeronautiques, a consortium whose shareholders include Spanish business people and a venture capital company. SAS retains a 20pc stake.
Yesterday Aer Lingus reported that the total number of passengers it carried in July fell 8.7pc year-on-year to just over one million as the effects of reduced fleet capacity continued to impact on numbers.
The number of short-haul passengers was down 8.3pc to 921,000, while the number of long-haul passengers fell 12.4pc to 99,000.
The overall load factor, or percentage of available seats filled, was up 3.5 points to 85.8pc with capacity down nearly 14pc year-on-year. The long-haul load factor jumped 12.8 points to 89.8pc with capacity down almost 28pc, while the short-haul load factor slipped 1.6 points to 84pc, with capacity down by 5.3pc.
Meanwhile, the outcome of a fresh ballot on possible industrial action by Aer Lingus cabin crew is likely to be known today.