Emirates chief rules out buying Aer Lingus stake
EMIRATES IS not interested in buying shares in Aer Lingus, the Dubai airline’s chief executive Tim Clark has said, although it would like to forge closer ties commercially with the Irish carrier.
“At this stage, we don’t have any interest in buying a stake in Aer Lingus,” Mr Clark told The Irish Times during an interview in Dublin yesterday. “We are keen to do business with Aer Lingus commercially but as far as buying into it at this stage – no.”
Unlike its United Arab Emirates rival Etihad, which operates out of neighbouring Abu Dhabi, Mr Clark said Emirates was not interested in acquiring strategic stakes in other airlines. “At the moment, we are not interested in having a stake in Aer Lingus. Equally, when Air Berlin approached us, we were not interested in taking a stake in Air Berlin. Etihad then did .”
Etihad recently acquired a stake of just under 3 per cent in Aer Lingus and has indicated its interest in buying the Government’s 25 per cent holding when it is put up for sale.
Etihad also has strategic stakes in Air Berlin, Air Seychelles and Virgin Australia.
“We have stayed away from stakes in other carriers,” Mr Clark explained. “That’s not to say that Aer Lingus would not be a good investment. But we had one episode in the history of the airline where we took a stake in Sri Lankan airlines and managed that business for 10 years.
“A lot of my time and my colleagues’ time was spent running that business, perhaps to the detriment of Emirates.
“If this turns out to be a good investment for Etihad, so what? They have a different business model. They are acquiring other airline stakes around the world. We can’t part with that money. I don’t have government coffers to go out and buy other carriers.”
However, Mr Clark said Emirates would like to build closer business links with Aer Lingus.
Etihad recently signed a code-sharing deal with Aer Lingus and the pair are looking at other possible partnership opportunities.
Mr Clark does not believe this would exclude Aer Lingus and Emirates from working together.
“Aer Lingus is coming good now,” he said. “It seems to be starting to make money. I think it’s a great airline and I really enjoy flying with it.”
Emirates began flying from Dublin to Dubai in January of this year and has carried about 120,000 passengers to date and increased the size of aircraft to meet demand. Its average load factor is more than 90 per cent per flight.
Mr Clark said Emirates will probably add a second flight a day on the Dublin route in the next 18 months to two years.
“It depends really on the availability of aircraft,” he said.
He also expressed regret at having waited so long to put Dublin on its schedule. Etihad has operated to Abu Dhabi since 2007, with success.
“The entry into Ireland was regrettably late. The evidence of our first six months shows that we should have been here a lot, lot sooner.”