Thursday 18 January 2018

Aer Lingus targets up to 10 more US destinations from Dublin

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Aer Lingus has identified up to 10 US cities that could be served from Dublin with the new long-range Airbus A321LR it will take delivery of between 2019 and 2020, according to IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.

But he said that all those cities were unlikely to operate to all 10 of those destinations from the capital.

"It's the beauty of this aircraft: it does open up some very significant cities in the United States," said Mr Walsh.

"We've looked at the potential network for this aircraft and it is very significant. We're excited about that."

He said that Aer Lingus could raise the number of A321LR jets it would take into its fleet from eight to 12.

Aer Lingus announced this month that it will fly from Dublin to Philadelphia from next year, and launched a service between Dublin and Miami in September.

"We're out there taking to potential [US] airports," said Mr Walsh.

"We will certainly increase the network that will be served by Aer Lingus from Dublin with the 321. It also allows us to increase frequencies."

Aer Lingus chief operating officer Mike Rutter said this month that the airline is not intending in the short-term to use a 321LR jet to operate services between Cork and the US.

Mr Walsh pointed out that Aer Lingus transatlantic routes have been profitable from the moment they launch, rather than months after they've been bedded down, and that US airports regularly approach him eager to have Aer Lingus serve them.

"It just shows you the profile that Aer Lingus has got within the group because of their strategy in terms of transatlantic expansion over the last number of years," he added.

IAG, which also owns British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, generated a pre-tax profit of €1.43bn in the three months to the end of September, and revenues of €6.61bn. The figures were 22.5pc and 2pc higher respectively year-on-year.

The airline group expects to make a profit of about €3bn this year. Its shares slumped 6.7pc yesterday.

Aer Lingus delivered a 29.8pc operating margin in the third quarter, and a return on invested capital of 22.9pc over the past four quarters.

Mr Walsh added that IAG's transatlantic North American business is performing well. He said that corporate travel between the UK and the United States has rebounded from the softness seen in the months following last year's Brexit vote.

Mr Walsh warned again that IAG's expansion of the Aer Lingus network is dependent on delivery of infrastructure improvements at Dublin Airport.

"What's required now is a more efficient Dublin Airport within the existing infrastructure," he said.

Mr Walsh also said that IAG is interested in acquiring takeoff and landing slots at London Gatwick following the recent collapse of Monarch.

The IAG boss said the impact of the pilot rostering fiasco at Ryanair has been "blown out of proportion", and that IAG itself is not having any difficulty in sourcing pilots.

"The issues are specific to airlines that have pursued strong growth where they need captains ... that's the bottleneck."

Irish Independent

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