Aer Lingus deal for new planes sealed as profits hit €72m
Aer Lingus has inked a deal to buy nine new Airbus aircraft that will eventually enable it to replace its existing long-haul fleet.
It confirmed the contract with Airbus yesterday as it announced a strong set of financial results for 2014, with operating profit rising almost 18pc to €72m.
The performance was spurred by a surge in transatlantic business at the airline, which last year expanded its long-haul capacity to the United States and Canada by 24pc.
It reopened a service between Dublin and San Francisco, launched a new route between the capital and Toronto, and also expanded other services to the US.
About half the bookings made with Aer Lingus are made by customers outside Ireland.
Revenue at the carrier jumped 9.2pc to €1.55bn last year.
The airline has also set aside almost €191m to fund a new defined contribution pension scheme for staff - part of a deal reached last year to address a massive €700m shortfall at a defined benefit pension scheme that served current and former workers at Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority.
Aer Lingus recorded €180.3m in exceptional items as a result, pushing its pre-tax loss for the year to €111.5m.
Incoming chief executive Stephen Kavanagh - who takes over at the end of this week from Christoph Mueller - said Aer Lingus had also delivered what he said was a "resilient performance" on what were challenged short-haul services.
Aer Lingus is increasingly being put under pressure by Ryanair, as its larger rival targets primary European airports that it has not traditionally served before.
The airline board also reiterated its support for a takeover by IAG.
Chairman Colm Barrington insisted that the results could be enhanced by the airline taking "the opportunity to combine with IAG".
Aer Lingus said the new aircraft it will take delivery of in the coming years will allow it to expand its long-haul services in the future.
The airline will launch a service to Washington this year, and is likely to relaunch a Dublin-Los Angeles service next year.
The new Airbus A350 aircraft it has ordered will have 30 business class seats and 330 seats in total.
Aer Lingus will also introduce a premium economy service on long-haul flights when it starts taking delivery of the new aircraft.