AER LINGUS will likely have smaller European and North American route networks in the foreseeable future, but IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said the group remains "committed" to using Dublin as a passenger hub.
IAG, which acquired Aer Lingus in 2015, has significantly expanded the Irish carrier's North Atlantic network since then, adding or relaunching services to destinations such as Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Minneapolis-St Paul. It was feeding traffic through Dublin from destinations in the UK and mainland Europe.
"Aer Lingus will continue to be an airline with a spread of business between transatlantic and short-haul European flights. I don't see that changing," said Mr Walsh yesterday after IAG released first-quarter results.
"What I think will change is the scale of the short-haul intra-European activity and then potentially the scale of the transatlantic.
"But we remain committed to the fundamental business model of a Dublin hub and feeding traffic over Dublin into North America, which we believe will continue to be a critical part of the Aer Lingus business model."
He insisted that the Aer Lingus transatlantic network will be the "foundation" on which the airline will "continue to build its business", as he warned that industries across the globe are facing what will be the "deepest recession… that we've ever witnessed".
IAG, which also owns British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Level, currently has about 440 aircraft grounded, with passenger capacity in April and May down about 94pc.
It operated 422 dedicated cargo flights in April and expects to do more than that this month, said Mr Walsh.
Mr Walsh said Aer Lingus, whose chief executive is Sean Doyle, will continue to "exploit the opportunities" that the group has identified for connecting Ireland and North America, and connecting over Dublin.
He dismissed any suggestion Aer Lingus should be renationalised, branding it a "red herring".
Aer Lingus last week said it is planning to cut jobs, and it is expected that as many as 900 of its 4,500 workers will be let go as the coronavirus pandemic pummels the global airline industry.
Mr Walsh, who was due to retire from IAG but has extended his stay until September, declined to be drawn on the detail of the redundancy plan.
"We will have formal consultation," he said. "We will not give a running commentary on the discussions we're having with the trade unions, but what is clear is that our industry is going to be very different going forward. In order for us to be part of that industry, to ensure that we preserve as much liquidity as possible, we will need restructuring across the group, not just in one part of it."
Mr Walsh said that Aer Lingus wants to have "constructive dialogue" with trade unions and employee representatives so they can work together to "minimise any impact on the business as we engage in this restructuring process".
IAG posted a first quarter loss of €535m and is hoping for a meaningful return to service in July.
Mr Walsh also said IAG's planned €1bn acquisition of Spain's Air Europa still makes strategic sense for the group.