Aer Lingus is officially a year on from ending its independence after former Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe cleared the disposal, following acrimonious debate, of the Government’s 25% stake to Willie Walsh’s IAG — the conglomerate that includes British Airways, Iberia, and Vueling.
Talking to reporters and travel trade representatives, Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh said Aer Lingus was generating the highest level of margin of all the IAG airlines, as it drove growth in its transatlantic traffic through the Dublin “gateway”.
He said that though Dublin was a major gateway, Cork and Shannon were not being left out in the cold.
“I don’t believe they are being left out in the cold but there is a practical reality that 30 short-haul aircraft [are] based in Dublin and that my colleagues at Stobart Air have another eight,” he said.
“There is a critical mass of operations between Dublin and north America simply because of the geography, the size of the local markets and where businesses are located. So, we are using that to leverage.
“But [what] we are doing is we continue to build Shannon. We continue to focus on the daily services from Boston and New York.”
Mr Kavanagh added that BA is “now more connected to Shannon than it ever was” because of code-sharing flights. He pledged the airline will announce expansion plans at Cork in the coming months.
“We will be growing our services in Cork,” he said.
“It is not the focus of today’s launch because it is a Dublin launch but we will have a similar event for Cork because we will be increasing Cork- Heathrow services in the peak months, we will be increasing Cork services to continental Europe and we will be retaining obviously the successful business from Cork to the sun destinations.”
Mr Kavanagh also said the airline has always supported the delayed plans by Norwegian Air International to launch a transatlantic service from Cork, saying that it did not fear competition.
“We need to be open to competing for business every day,” he said.
Yesterday’s announcement involved plans for the airline’s transatlantic and sun routes from Dublin.
It will launch a new route flying three times a week from Dublin to Miami from September next year, while increasing the frequency to Los Angeles to a daily flight, and flying to Orlando four times a week and to Chicago twice a day — all from next summer.
It started flying to Los Angeles, Newark, and Hartford earlier this year.
Its sun destinations from next summer will include, Porto in Portugal and Split in Croatia.
Plans for US pre-customs clearance by other airports in the UK and continental European would likely not affect the benefits of Dublin, he said.
Mr Kavanagh said Aer Lingus has been “pleasantly surprised” by the strength of the UK economy despite the potential Brexit shock and the slump in sterling.
“At the moment”, business was very much “steady as she goes”, he said.
After tumbling on the Brexit vote, shares in parent IAG have rallied, but remain almost 25% down this year.