Virgin to 'wet lease' Aer Lingus jets
Having lost out in a bidding process to acquire daily slots from London Heathrow to Edinburgh, Aer Lingus is now set to operate the route as part of a “wet lease” agreement with Virgin Atlantic.
This year 12 daily pairs of Heathrow slots became available following a ruling from the European Commission that cleared IAG’s takeover of BMI on condition that they gave up these slots. Aer Lingus tendered for six daily slots from Heathrow to Edinburgh, but came second to Virgin Atlantic. That airline is now availing of the opportunity to launch its first domestic UK flights – with the help of Aer Lingus.
Aer Lingus will lease Virgin four Airbus A320-200 aircraft together with all crew, all maintenance, hull and third-party legal liability insurance – known as a “wet lease”. The deal is for an initial three years and will begin on March 31st, 2013. Aircraft will be deployed in Virgin livery and it is expected the routes will carry one million passengers a year.
The three routes that Aer Lingus will operate will be timed to maximise connections for passengers travelling onwards from London across Virgin Atlantic’s global network, and will run from London Heathrow airport to Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Aer Lingus will run 24 flights a day, with the Manchester flights expected to start in March, followed by flights into Scotland in April.
According to a spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic, Aer Lingus won out in a competitive tendering process with fellow airline Avion on the grounds that it was an “experienced short-haul operator with a low cost-base and a good reputation”.
It is understood Aer Lingus will source additional aircraft to service the routes, bringing its short-haul portfolio up to 40 aircraft.