Aer Lingus expects decision soon on UK domestic service

Aer Lingus expects a decision next week on plans to run a high frequency UK domestic service to Scotland from Heathrow.

The European Commission is due to rule on the Irish airline’s bid to enter the UK domestic arena with a Heathrow-Edinburgh service on November 15.

The carrier submitted a plan to start domestic flights as a result of competition remedies arising from the takeover of BMI by British Airways’ parent International Airlines Group

Virgin Atlantic has also submitted plans to start domestic services from the London hub following the BA-BMI deal.

Aer Lingus, revealing a third quarter operating profit down by 2.9% to €90.9 million, said it continues to pursue its growth strategy with respect to opportunities at Heathrow.

The profit figure was achieved despite weaker business demand on core routes to London during the Olympic Games, and fuel price and airport charge inflation.

The airline made no new comment on Ryanair’s hostile takeover bid which is subject to a European Commission probe. A decision is expected in the first quarter of 2013.

The UK Competition Commission is also continuing to investigate the effects of Ryanair’s minority shareholding in Aer Lingus. Ryanair is challenging the legitimacy of the Competition Commission’s investigation in the UK courts.

Chief executive Christoph Mueller said: “The growth of our short-haul business in London Heathrow is dependent on the allocation of former BMI remedy slots for the operation to Edinburgh, and we expect a decision as to the ranking of our application by the European Commission by November 15.”

He added: “Overall, this strong Q3 result follows on from a solid 2012 first half performance.

“We remain focused on achieving continued cost savings and greater efficiency within the business against a challenging macro-economic backdrop, an increasingly competitive environment and continued inflation in fuel prices and airport charges.

“Forward bookings at the end of Q3 were stronger than in the same period last year. Due to increased demand, an additional aircraft is required to serve our long haul network on the North Atlantic. Fortunately, we have an A330 returning to our fleet from the extended codeshare with United Airlines and we will redeploy this aircraft to serve our North Atlantic market.”

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