November 21, 2012
Aer Lingus next year plans to add one more aircraft to its long-haul fleet, and will use the Airbus A330-200 on lease from United Airlines to add frequencies on routes from Dublin to Boston and Chicago.
The additional A330 will bring the airline’s long-haul fleet to 11 aircraft.
“Long-haul is performing extremely well,” Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Mueller tells Aviation Week. The carrier tries to limit connecting traffic to about 30% in order not to dilute yields, a strategy that works well, with a strong portion of capacity sold in the U.S.
Aer Lingus is evaluating its future fleet requirements, but no order decision is imminent. The airline is interested in using the Airbus A321NEO on transatlantic routes. With its lower capacity, the aircraft could enable the carrier to operate year-round services from Cork, Shannon and Belfast, Ireland, to New York, says Mueller.
The CEO expects the regulatory review of Ryanair’s existing stake in Aer Lingus to be finalized and published in mid-December, whereas the European Commission’s decision on the carrier’s takeover offer should be published in mid-February. Mueller and his management team fiercely oppose the takeover plans. The Aer Lingus CEO argues that the carrier is profitable and sustainable in its own right and that it wants to participate actively in industry consolidation, but as an investor, not as a takeover target.
Mueller also is not enthusiastic about Etihad’s proposal to buy a 25% stake in Aer Lingus when the Irish government sells its shareholding. Having a shareholder such as Etihad controlling 25% “is not a disadvantage, unless they dominate us,” Mueller says.
But if it means that Aer Lingus’s productivity is deteriorating, “then I’m not so interested,” Whether an investment makes business sense, “can only be answered by Etihad,” Mueller adds.
In Mueller’s view, the benefits to revenue are limited as Etihad passengers would not normally connect through Dublin to other destinations. Both airlines are currently looking at where they could take advantage of cost synergies, “but that is not bound to a share holding,” he adds.