Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Huge issue' - Aer Lingus forced to postpone introduction of new routes between Dublin and US due to Airbus A321LR aircraft delays

Willie Walsh, CEO of airline group IAG, the parent company of Aer Lingus
Willie Walsh, CEO of airline group IAG, the parent company of Aer Lingus
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Aer Lingus has been forced to postpone the introduction of up to two new routes between Dublin and the United States until 2021 due to continuing delivery delays with the Airbus A321LR aircraft, according to IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.

He said the production delays are a “huge issue” for Aer Lingus and other carriers and that Airbus does not seem to appreciate the economic impact the delayed deliveries are having on customers.

Aer Lingus has two of the A321LRs now in service. They’re leased from leasing firm Air Lease, but fitted out by Airbus for Aer Lingus. The aircraft are long-range variants of the A321 workhorse typically used on routes such as those between Dublin and London. Aer Lingus is due to take delivery of eight A321LR jets, but production delays have already forced it to delay the introduction of a service between Dublin and Montreal.

“It’s a huge issue,” said Mr Walsh, speaking in Toronto as he showcased a new A350 aircraft now in use by British Airways.

“It’s one of the reasons why we’ve been so upset with the performance of Airbus,” he added.

Mr Walsh said he visited Airbus headquarters in Toulouse last week and explained to management the impact the delivery delays were having.

“This is one of the points I made to them,” he said. “Sometimes they gloss over the impact of a delay like this for an airline like Aer Lingus, who are trying to transform their transatlantic service, it has a huge impact. We haven’t had a sense that Airbus have fully appreciated the negative impact these delays are having.”

IAG, which also owns British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Level, has significantly expanded Aer Lingus since it acquired it in 2015.

Mr Walsh said the delivery delays have also had an impact on expanding capacity on other transatlantic routes. IAG also has orders for six A321XLRs for Aer Lingus – jets with an even longer range.

He also insisted that passengers charges at Dublin Airport should come down. The DAA, which operates the gateway, has insisted that its massive €1.8bn infrastructure development programme at the airport will be jeopardised if plans by the Commission for Aviation Regulation to slash those fees go ahead this month.

“There’s a bit of a disconnect between what we want for Dublin and what the DAA as owner and operator of the airport want,” claimed Mr Walsh.

“It’s a pity, because they’ve benefited hugely from the expansion by Aer Lingus and by Ryanair,” he said.

“The things we would see as being normal for a business, they’re struggling with,” Mr Walsh insisted.

He claimed that fears the DAA’s credit ratings and ability to raise cash would be hit if it could not secure the charges it has sought are unfounded.

“We don’t accept that, we don’t believe it,” said Mr Walsh. “We deal with ratings agencies, we know the way they think and operate.”

He accepted it wasn’t in IAG’s interests to see the viability of Dublin Airport undermined.

“It’s an important base for us, but it’s clearly definitely not in our interest that we just stand back and allow the airport to increase charges, at a time when everything says… that the charges should come down.”

A DAA spokesman said: “Mr Walsh’s claim that daa is seeking an increase in airport charges is untrue. Our pricing proposition was that we would invest almost €2 billion in new infrastructure with flat airport charges for the next five years. We consulted with our airline customers on this basis last year and Aer Lingus had no objection whatsoever to flat charges at the time.”

Online Editors

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