Not all plane sailing for Aer Lingus and United
ONE MORE THING:THE JOINT venture between Aer Lingus and Chicago-based United on the Washington DC-Madrid route will close later this month because the pair didn’t have anti-trust immunity to co-ordinate pricing or networks, the US airline’s head of alliances and regulatory matters told me at a media conference it hosted this week.
“We do not have anti-trust immunity with Aer Lingus so we don’t have the ability, like we do with Lufthansa, or ANA [in Japan] or Air Canada, to co-ordinate pricing or co-ordinate networks,” Hershel Kamen, United’s senior vice-president of alliances, regulatory and policy said at its international media day in Chicago on Tuesday.
“That puts a lot of strain on a joint venture because you can’t talk about the dynamics of the joint venture together because of anti-trust law. So, from a functional standpoint, it didn’t really work because we couldn’t have the conversations that we needed to have.”
Kamen said it was also an “isolated” route in the networks of both carriers and wasn’t core to the relationship it has with Aer Lingus. The pair operate an extensive code sharing arrangement.
The Washington DC-Madrid route was launched in March 2010 by former Aer Lingus boss Dermot Mannion and was agreed before United merged with US rival Continental two years ago to become the world’s biggest airline.
The flights were operated by Aer Lingus, with United marketing the route and selling the tickets. The A320-200 aircraft will now be used to add capacity to Aer Lingus’s transatlantic routes, which have performed well of late.
While that route is biting the dust, Kamen was positive about the potential to enhance its relationship with Aer Lingus and hinted strongly that United would like the Irish airline to join the Star alliance, of which the US carrier was a founding member.
“We’ve agreed with Aer Lingus that, while they may or may not ever want to join Star, and you would have to ask them that question, we think there are benefits for both carriers.
“They are a strong partner for us in the UK and Ireland. We will likely expand that relationship.
“The benefit for us is the connections they provide throughout the UK and Ireland, especially with [UK airline] BMI leaving Star and the Lufthansa group [following its takeover by BA].
“Aer Lingus provides connections at Heathrow as well as out of Shannon and Dublin services that we couldn’t otherwise offer to destinations that we don’t serve.”
Aer Lingus is not a member of a global airline alliance, having quit the Oneworld group some years ago. Instead, chief executive Christoph Mueller has preferred to stay neutral, citing costs associated with being an alliance member as one factor.