Aer Lingus aims to sell IT systems to other airlines
Aer Lingus is aiming to sell new IT services to other airlines, while chief executive Christoph Mueller will visit Etihad's home base of Abu Dhabi tomorrow to "take stock" of what he said has been a productive relationship between the airlines.
Etihad owns nearly 3pc of Aer Lingus and the two airlines also have a codeshare agreement, which Mr Mueller said has performed better than expected since it came into operation last year.
Etihad, headed by Australian chief executive James Hogan, has made no secret of the fact that it would be interested in acquiring a bigger stake in Aer Lingus. However, any such move would be unlikely to take place before a troublesome pension issue that affects Aer Lingus is resolved.
Even so the two carriers have 17 areas of interest that they may cooperate on, from aircraft to engines and IT systems, according to Mr Mueller.
"We have a variety of issues where we cooperate, not only the flying bit, which has performed better than we expected," said Mr Mueller.
"We have a couple of joint purchasing initiatives on things like IT systems; we talk aircraft, we talk engines. There's a list of 17 points we are currently looking at."
Any potential suitor is also certain to wait until Ryanair has exhausted the appeal process following the UK Competition Commission's decision this summer to order the airline to reduce its near 30pc stake in Aer Lingus to just 5pc.
Mr Mueller also confirmed that Aer Lingus will make a decision within six months on whether to ink an agreement with an IT provider it has already been in negotiations with to install a completely new passenger service computer system (PSS) for the airline.
The core of the existing Aer Lingus PSS dates back to the sixties and was developed in-house rather than by a third party.
"The system is not running on its own since it's so old," said Mr Mueller.
However, a so-called piece of middleware, a new system provided by Dublin-based software firm Datalex, sits on the existing Aer Lingus platform.
That enables the airline to sell via its website a range of services and products to passengers, such as on-board meals.
"We want to take a lead role in replacing our current in-house PSS with a more advanced version currently not on offer from the traditional providers," said Mr Mueller.
He added that at one stage, Aer Lingus had about 20 airlines around the world that used its PSS to provide services to their own customers.
He said the cost of deploying advanced systems might still be an entry barrier to smaller airlines and that it "might be very useful" for them to team up with Aer Lingus.