Profits at Aer Lingus to beat forecasts


Aer Lingus profits are likely to be around €45 million this year, €5 million more than previously forecast, the airline's chief executive has said.

Mr Willie Walsh also said that profits would be significantly higher next year.

Mr Walsh confirmed a series of new routes to the US and Europe, as well as announcing a major seat sale from Sunday. The company will offer 500,000 seats to US and European cities on existing routes at an average discount of 20 per cent. The reduced fares will be for flights in January, February and March.

The planned new routes for next year include four weekly flights to Lisbon and Bologna. The carrier will also fly to Jersey three times a week. And an additional "one or two" planes per week will be put on existing routes to Malaga, Alicante, Faro, Vienna, Prague, Geneva, Nice and Milan.

All of the new routes and route changes will be introduced at the end of March, the start of the airline's summer schedule.

The re-introduced Dublin-Shannon-Baltimore route will fly five times per week, while two new flights will be put on from Shannon to New York JFK. And five flights per week will go from Dublin to Boston direct. Aer Lingus does not currently run a direct flight to Boston.

The airline is also interested in flying to San Francisco and Florida, and an additional "two or three" new routes to bases in Europe are also being considered.

Mr Walsh told a Sales Institute of Ireland conference yesterday that, following the events of September 11th, he feared "many people would never fly again". However, he said the airline's reduced fares as well as its cost-cutting programme had returned the airline to financial health.

He added that Aer Rianta would be better served by reorganising air traffic control at Dublin airport to facilitate more planes rather than building a second runway as proposed. The mooted €100 million facility is not needed, he said.

He does not anticipate any immediate fallout from a European Union Court of Justice ruling on "open skies" agreements.

The court ruled that bilateral aviation deals between eight members-states and the US breached EU competition law but it failed to explicitly endorse the Commission's insistence that it should be granted sole authority to conclude "open skies" agreements.