IAG boss Willie Walsh reveals Aer Lingus early plans for new Atlantic routes

Chief executive Willie Walsh has said his IAG board heard a strong case this week from Aer Lingus bosses for further expansion out of Ireland across the Atlantic.

The new plans were presented on Wednesday to the IAG board by Aer Lingus chief executive Sean Doyle and chief finance officer Rachel Izzard and involve new aircraft and the opening of new routes out of Ireland into North America in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

However, a major part of the new plan still appears to be focused on the Dublin Airport “hub” rather than on Cork and Shannon, indicated Mr Walsh.

In a briefing, he told reporters Aer Lingus had performed strongly on the transatlantic routes and IAG saw opportunities “to expand even further beyond what we previously announced”. He cited discussions with US airports for not providing more details.

Mr Walsh said the Cork market did not support the use of wide-body jets and that participants, including the Government, understood the efficiencies a major airport hub such as Dublin could deliver.

“If there is a market opportunity in Cork and Shannon I guarantee you that we will want to avail of that opportunity,” said Mr Walsh.

He said he couldn’t disclose Brexit plans that IAG had made with governments and regulators but he was confident the preparations put in place would work.

IAG has owned Aer Lingus since 2015 when the Government sold its 25% stake. It also owns British Airways, Iberia, and Vueling.

He said the IAG airlines had performed well in the quarter despite the “very identifiable headwinds we have seen”, from fuel and adverse currency costs.

The currency effect will turn in IAG’s favour but the full-year fuel bill will rise to €6.2bn compared with just over €5.2bn last year.

“So a big increase in the fuel bill for the year... but the important thing is that we are holding our full-year guidance to say that we are delivering operating profit this year in line with last year,” he said.

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