Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Mueller said that they made a conscious decision three years ago to make Aer Lingus into the natural choice of airline for people flying to the US. Since then the airline has gone about signing deals and arranging routes to funnel passengers in from Britain and as far afield as Germany to fill their transatlantic routes.
Mr Mueller said they came up with the strategy in 2010 when they realised they could not rely on the Irish domestic market to support the company’s future.
“We had to decrease dependency on the home market, sadly, as economic activity in Ireland decreased,” he said.
Geographically Ireland is well suited to becoming a natural hub to serve the American market by copying the model of the Portuguese airline, TAP, which funnels America-bound customers through Lisbon before flying them across the Atlantic.
“We never lived up to our natural fingerprint as a US route. We will naturally grow our share of Europe, as passengers are much like water, they find the shortest route,” said Mr Mueller.
The final pieces of the jigsaw are sliding into place allowing the airline to serve major parts of Europe as a the logical route to America. Aer Lingus has built in routes from Britain, Germany and Belgium that allow the airline to offer the best times for customers to fly to the States with pre-clearance in Dublin.
“Our schedule is what is selling these routes. They are not selling on price. People can save three to four hours and we are the only flights that can offer terminal clearance,” he said.
The company expects to see 15% growth on the long-haul routes this year.
Aer Lingus is also hoping that the UK Competition Commission will order Ryanair to sell down their holding in the former Irish national airline.