By Geoff Percival
Aer Lingus nearly doubled its profits to €104m in the first half of the year, new figures from parent IAG show.
The airline saw 9.5% year-on-year growth in passenger numbers last month. It comfortably outperformed sister carrier British Airways which saw its profits rise 6.4% in the first half.
On the back of IAG’s interim results, Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh said the airline is reinvesting in its business to meet its growth targets.
However, he warned that to realise its ambitions “significant” infrastructure development is required at Dublin Airport.
“We expect that the airport’s forthcoming capital investment programme will begin to address the infrastructure deficits at the airport,” Kavanagh said.
Work on Dublin’s new runway is set to start this year and be completed by the end of 2021. The DAA has described it as the most important thing Ireland will build in a generation and warned that failure to amend night-flying and outdated noise-restriction planning conditions could result in the loss of 2.4 million passengers and the erosion of the airport’s international competitiveness.
Higher ticket prices and lower costs helped IAG post a 6% rise in second-quarter operating profit, to €835m, and keep it on track for full-year growth. First-half revenue increased 3.1% to €11.2bn.
The group also owns Spanish airlines Iberia, Level, and Vueling. It reiterated its outlook that it expected annual operating profit to be higher this year at current fuel prices and exchange rates.
IAG continues to want to add new airlines to its portfolio and its chief executive, Willie Walsh said the group remained interested in Norwegian, the struggling low-cost carrier it had approached earlier this year.
In April, IAG acquired a 4.6% stake in Norwegian with a view to starting takeover discussions, but Mr Walsh said that there were no active discussions taking place, adding that Norwegian would be transformed under IAG ownership.
“We believe that long-haul, low-cost is a segment of the market that is undeserved and we believe that we can do so profitably,” Mr Walsh said.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Air plans to hire an extra 40 pilots for its Dublin base as it adds more transatlantic flights.
Norwegian is seeking to hire captains and first officers certified to fly Boeing 737 aircraft and will almost double the number of flight crews at its Dublin base. Last year, Norwegian said it had poached more than 140 pilots from Ryanair in Europe.
Additional reporting Reuters