Aer Lingus seeks to operate more routes for larger rivals
AER Lingus is on the hunt for more deals to operate routes on behalf of larger European airlines, according to chief executive Christoph Mueller.
He said Aer Lingus was keen to expand on deals that it currently has with Virgin Atlantic and Novair in Sweden, where it provides aircraft on a so-called 'wet-lease' basis.
That involves Aer Lingus providing planes and crew to operate a route under contract and often using the customer's livery.
Novair uses an Aer Lingus A330 to operate charter flights from Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen to destinations in the Caribbean.
Aer Lingus also has a wet-lease agreement with Virgin Atlantic's 'Little Red' domestic UK service. It operates flights for Little Red from Heathrow to destinations including Manchester, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, using four Airbus aircraft.
Those services only began in the past few weeks.
Aer Lingus had been up against Virgin in a bid to secure slots at Heathrow that were being surrendered by British Airways as part of its deal with regulators to be allowed buy British Midland.
Mr Mueller has previously said that Aer Lingus faced challenges in growing from its domestic base and that it needed to examine new opportunities.
Had it secured the Heathrow slots, it would have marked the first-ever Aer Lingus British domestic service.
Mr Mueller said that more contract deals were being sought by Aer Lingus.
He believes that demand for such services should increase as bigger rivals, such as Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and Alitalia, try to cut costs but maintain access to key markets.
He told Bloomberg News that there could be as many as 500 aircraft flying unprofitable routes in Europe and that the planes were only being used to fill long-haul aircraft at hubs such as Heathrow and Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Aer Lingus would be able to turn a profit on such services through better slot utilisation.
"This is one of the markets we want to focus on, whether under our own brand, a Virgin Atlantic-type of model or simply as a white-tail," Mr Mueller said.
White tails are unbranded aircraft.
He also confirmed that Aer Lingus was still considering leasing Boeing 757s that it could use to add services from Shannon to the US.
Aer Lingus releases results today for the first three months of the year and holds its annual general meeting tomorrow.