Aer Lingus has mounted a vigorous defence of its position ahead of a ruling by the European Union concerning the proposed takeover by Ryanair.
The Irish low-cost carrier has launched several broadsides recently at its compatriot, with chief executive Michael O”Leary, maintaining any such bid would not be anti-competitive.
Speaking to ABTN at today's (13 June) Low Cost Transport Summit organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs, Aer Lingus commercial director, Enda Corneille, said: ”The EU is due to make its decision on 4 July, but Ryanair looks at this from Europe - it”s a different situation in Ireland.
”We've tried hard not to let it distract us, we”re looking to increase capacity this year by 19% and have just announced new long-haul routes to Orlando, Washington Dulles and San Francisco.”
And Corneille batted away suggestions that Ryanair might dispose of Aer Lingus' slots at Heathrow should its bid succeed. ”Our Heathrow operation underpins a very profitable structure,” he said, adding: ”We fly more than two million on the Dublin-Heathrow route and have 23 slot pairs a day.”
The commercial director also hinted that the advent of Open Skies next March could see the Irish flag carrier operate from the UK to the US - another reason to keep the Heathrow slots ”Is there a possibility of us flying from the UK to the US? Absolutely. We are also looking at [establishing] a base outside Ireland, perhaps in Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester or Belfast.”
Corneille noted that delivery of the new long-haul fleet ” particularly the Airbus A350XWB "would open a host of new possibilities" although mainly to the US - one of Aer Lingus - core markets.
”Of the 14 [new] aircraft at least 12 of them will be tasked to the US,” he said, adding: ”There will be at least one new east coast route, possibly Miami, Pitsburgh, New York or somewhere in the mid-west.”