Aer Lingus could start flying to the Middle East again
Aer Lingus could start flying to the Middle East again, years after it pulled its flights to Dubai when the financial crisis started to take hold.
But it's likely to be a few years before such a service starts.
Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh said the airline, acquired last year by IAG for €1.36bn, will leverage the fact that Qatar Airways now owns 15pc of IAG. Qatar has signalled that it is interested in boosting that stake in IAG even further.
He said that it's likely that either Aer Lingus will begin flying to Qatar's capital, Doha, or that Qatar Airways will commence flights to Dublin.
That would intensify competition between IAG and Gulf carriers Emirates and Etihad, both of which operate significant flight schedules out of Dublin to their respective hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
"Certainly, while we're focuses on exploiting the opportunities growing west... there's certainly an opportunity for us in the future," said Mr Kavanagh, who was speaking this afternoon at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting being held in Dublin this week.
"We've been bereft of opportunity growing east, simply because of the control that Emirates and Etihad would have on the flow of traffic to the Middle East on to their networks," he added. "Now we have not just a shareholder, but also a partner, with a competitive network in Qatar. We would connect into the Qatar hub either on our metal (aircraft) or Qatar metal. It's a natural way of exploiting the opportunities that both parties can bring."
Mr Kavanagh said it's "only a matter of time" before the link happens, but conceded it is a medium-term plan given Aer Lingus' current focus on expanding its transatlantic network.
Aer Lingus launched flights to Dubai in March 2006 and terminated the route in early 2008.