Aer Lingus confirms Etihad partnership

Aer Lingus confirmed a codeshare with Etihad Airways while revealing plans to operate a domestic route from Heathrow.

The interline and codeshare with the UAE carrier, a minority shareholder in Aer Lingus, will see the Irish airline cooperate on flights between Abu Dhabi and Dublin.

It will have full access to services across the Etihad network beyond Abu Dhabi to points including Australia, Asia-Pacific, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

“The financial contribution from routes operated in partnership with other carriers to key central destinations and hubs (e.g. London Heathrow, Amsterdam and Chicago O’Hare) constitute a core component of the group’s overall profitability,” Aer Lingus said.

“Aer Lingus’s neutrality, combined with its freedom to partner with a wide range of other airlines, is essential to ensure Aer Lingus’s continued viability as an independent profitable carrier and its future financial and commercial development.”

The airline is bidding to operate an unspecified UK domestic route following the slots disposal at Heathrow required following the takeover of BMI by British Airways parent International Airlines Group.

“The London market is important to Aer Lingus both for local traffic and also to facilitate connectivity between Ireland and other parts of the world,” the airline said.

Aer Lingus currently serves Heathrow from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Belfast. It recently added Southend airport as a London access point using the Aer Lingus Regional franchise.

The Irish carrier today posted a reduced second quarter pre-tax profit of €11.4 million, against €42.7 million a year earlier as passenger numbers rose from 2.58 million to 2.61 million.

Half year pre-tax losses deepened from €13.7 million to €24.5 million but the operating loss for the six months was reduced from €26.8 million to €4.4 million

Chief executive Christoph Mueller said: “Aer Lingus has produced a good trading performance in the seasonally weak first half of 2012.

“The group’s operating loss of €4.4 million represents a significant improvement over the prior year. These results clearly demonstrate that our strategy of building a leaner and more efficient Aer Lingus is working.

“We will continue to focus on improving our operational and financial performance during the key summer travel months of 2012.

If current trends continue, Aer Lingus’s operating profit, before net exceptional items, for 2012 will be at least that achieved in 2011 (€49.1 million).”

He reiterated the board’s stance in unanimously recommending that shareholders reject Ryanair’s latest takeover bid.

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