Aer Lingus has confirmed that its chief executive Christoph Müller will leave the airline on February 28 rather than in May, as had been previously stated.
He is to become chief executive of Malaysia Airlines. Colm Barrington, chairman of the Aer Lingus board will assume executive responsibility for strategic matters until a new chief executive is appointed.
The news came after the airline confirmed it carried more passengers than ever in 2014, despite a challenging December which saw a sharp reduction in the number of short-haul passengers. The airline — including Aer Lingus Regional — carried more than 11m passengers in 2014, an increase of more than 340,000 on the previous year, while the main airline saw passenger numbers rise by more than 140,000.
It amounted to a 3.2% rise in total passenger numbers, but during December, the total number of passengers carried — including Aer Lingus Regional — was down almost 4% compared to the same period of 2013, to 705,000.
This was largely attributed to a planned reduction in short-haul capacity which the airline says is intended to protect margins given seasonal demand conditions. Short-haul traffic for December was down 8.2%, with 517,000 passengers carried compared to 563,000 in December 2013.
Merrion Stockbrokers chief economist Alan McQuaid said the airline’s December figures were not as impressive as those for competitors, but lauded the planned adjustments.
“Overall, the passenger statistics for December are more challenged than those released by Ryanair and easyJet and highlight the competitive landscape, particularly on short-haul routes, but to the credit of Aer Lingus, the planned network adjustments taken during the month are aimed at protecting margins,” said Mr McQuaid.
Aer Lingus’s overall load factor for the year — the measure of how much of an airline’s passenger carrying capacity is used — rose by 0.6% to 79% but fell in December by 1.8%, with long haul down 4.7%. Mr McQuaid said the fall in long-haul should be short lived.
Aer Lingus’s share price surged in December in response to overtures made to the airline from IAG, which was rebuffed by the board.
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