Aer Lingus fights back in looming winter air fares war with Ryanair
Aer Lingus is squaring up to Ryanair for a winter fares showdown that will mean cut-price tickets for flyers.
Aer Lingus is also rolling out a range of new services for customers, including a new premium product on some short-haul routes, and a new 'Buy Before You Fly' service to enable passengers to order their duty free online before they travel.
The airline's chief executive, Stephen Kavanagh, told the Irish Independent that he expects some "aggressive pricing" in the coming months. He said Aer Lingus is "absolutely" up to meeting the Ryanair challenge.
His comments come as IAG is expected to cement its €1.36bn takeover of Aer Lingus today.
Aer Lingus shareholders have until 1pm this afternoon to accept the offer, with Ryanair, Etihad and the Government already having indicated they will sell their stakes in Aer Lingus to IAG.
"We're one of the more successful carriers in competing against Ryanair - we've been doing it for 30 years," said Mr Kavanagh.
He added: "Both ourselves and Ryanair will be putting some competitive pricing into the marketplace."
He was speaking as the carrier reported a second-quarter operating profit of €34.5m.
"Traditionally, the Irish market has responded to price stimulation - and in-bound tourism is improving too - so we certainly see an opportunity for Aer Lingus to grow profitably, particularly over the winter," the chief executive added.
He said that Aer Lingus is also contemplating additional services to Orlando, Florida, next summer, and might also target Miami.
Aer Lingus chief commercial officer, Mike Rutter, also confirmed that a range of new pre-flight and in-flight services are being rolled out in coming months, including a new website.
The airline is also launching a premium short-haul service - 'Aer Space' - on selected routes to cities such as London, Paris and Amsterdam. The first front couple of rows on aircraft serving those cities will have an empty middle seat to give higher paying passengers on either side more room.
Those passengers will also have free on-board snacks, lounge access, priority boarding and dedicated overhead luggage space. The Irish Independent first revealed the plan last year.
New automated check-in and baggage-drop facilities are also being introduced early next year.
Mr Rutter said passengers will soon be able to add extra bags to their tickets, as well as buy lounge access and other services, right up to arrival at the airport.