Walsh predicts further Aer Lingus expansion into US
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has said he would be amazed if Aer Lingus doesn't expand further in the coming years into the US.
The airline, which was taken over by the British Airways owner IAG last year, announced new US routes this year including to Los Angeles, Newark in New Jersey and Hartford, Connecticut.
Speaking to the Irish Independent on the margins of an aviation conference in the UCD Smurfit Graduate School yesterday, Mr Walsh said IAG was actively talking to airports and "airports are actively talking to us".
"We think there's further scope for Aer Lingus to expand. It's expanded at a very fast pace in recent years. We see no reason why we can't continue to expand," Mr Walsh said.
"There may well be an opportunity for us in 2017. I'd be amazed if we don't do something by 2018. I'd be amazed by 2018 if we had not expanded beyond the existing (US routes)."
However, Mr Walsh would not be drawn on possible destinations.
Aer Lingus will begin a year- round service between Dublin and Los Angeles next month.
Direct daily year-round flights will start in early September from Dublin to Newark and a third new route will commence in late September with a daily service from Dublin to Hartford.
The airline's long haul seat capacity is predicted to grow by more than 17pc in 2016. Mr Walsh said the continued US investment into Ireland is an influencing factor in the decision to expand further.
"That opens quite a lot of trade and opens up travel between the US and Ireland and there's just very strong underlying demand."
Meanwhile, earlier Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said IAG "hasn't done much so far" with Aer Lingus.
"Clearly, if they weren't going to let us buy Aer Lingus, it (IAG) was the next best alternative," Mr O'Leary said. "They've certainly speeded up the long haul expansion... but I haven't seen much cost coming out of Aer Lingus yet, which I think IAG would be ultimately reasonably good at.
"But it has at least secured the future of Aer Lingus here for the next number of years."