Aer Lingus and Ryanair ‘close to a passenger sharing deal’
Customers to fly part of journey with Ryanair and long-haul with Aer Lingus on one ticket
Rivals Aer Lingus and Ryanair are close to a passenger sharing deal, according to International Airlines Group (IAG) chief executive, Willie Walsh.
The pair have been in talks since last year about the possibility of Ryanair feeding passengers from its European network to Aer Lingus’s long-haul flights.
Such an agreement would allow customers to fly one leg of their journey with Ryanair and the long-haul element with Aer Lingus on one ticket.
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Walsh, who runs Aer Lingus’s parent, said he would be “surprised” if the two do not reach agreement. “It’s inevitable,” he said.
Last year Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, indicated that the airline was open to inter-line agreements that would see it carrying some transfer passengers for long-haul carriers.
He also made it clear those agreements would be on Ryanair’s terms and that the airline would not be liable for issues such as delays and missed flights.
It subsequently emerged that Ryanair and Are Lingus were in talks about the possibility of an inter-line deal, although neither side indicated if they were close to an agreement.
Aer Lingus is bidding to build its transatlantic franchise by drawing in transfer passengers from British and European airports.
IAG’s takeover of the Irish airline last year tied it into a network that includes British Airways and Spanish carrier, Iberia, boosting its ability to reach potential customers in Europe.
Mr Walsh acknowledged that Ryanair, which will fly more than 100 million passengers this year, had some “very interesting” destinations from Aer Lingus’s point of view.
He was speaking as British Airways launched a new service from Heathrow Airport in London to San Jose in California, the capital of the US tech industry.
Mr Walsh said that Aer Lingus had nothing to fear from Norwegian Air Shuttle’s plans to launch a low-cost transatlantic service using a subsidiary based in the Republic.
“Aer Lingus is the long-haul low-cost operator,” he said. “It has been doing it all along.”
The US authorities have granted the Scandinavian group’s subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, a “tentative” licence to fly there from the EU.
The move means that Norwegian could shortly launch services from Cork and Shannon to Boston.
It should also pave the way for the airline’s broader plans to offer low-cost flights from European cities to the US.
Mr Walsh said that he hoped Norwegian’s plans worked out.