Wednesday 13 November 2019

Carrier critical but stable in 'basket case' market

John Mulligan

"Never spoil a good crisis," said Christoph Mueller yesterday, as he outlined plans for how Aer Lingus will return to sustained profitability and re-align its business model to ensure its survival.

Having spent the guts of three months attempting to push through major cost savings, Mr Mueller can at last start thinking about ways in which to evolve the carrier's modus operandi.

It certainly isn't easy, but some thinking was laid bare. Aer Lingus "will never" fly to Asia, according to Mr Mueller, as the demand isn't there. He will instead seek to cement partnerships to drive traffic to the Orient. He described the Irish market as a "basket case".

Long-haul passengers to the US can expect to be charged for discretionary media entertainment, while the future Aer Lingus model is likely to resemble that of EasyJet rather than Ryanair.

The success of the Aer Lingus website in Ireland isn't mirrored in other markets, and distribution channels for its ticketing will have to be tailored to suit the requirements of individual regions.

Aer Lingus wouldn't become a "hub and spoke" carrier, but he hinted that opportunities existed to lure passengers from regional UK airports, not served with links to major airports there, to Dublin to connect to the US.

He also wants to expand the airline's footprint at Heathrow, with the Dublin-Heathrow service described as the "spine" of Aer Lingus.

Also, expect the possible growth of ventures such as that with United Airlines in the US, where Aer Lingus will fly between Washington DC and Madrid, and the spoils will be split with the American carrier.

As for Gatwick, the only British base Aer Lingus has and where it is scaling back services, Mr Mueller said the airport was "still very attractive" as a market, but that the company was in "hibernation mode" regarding its presence there.

Aer Lingus also has a base in Belfast, which has also been rejigged to suit demand. For now, read critical, but stable.

Irish Independent

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