Aer Lingus is eyeing up to 10 US cities as possible new destinations from Dublin, according to Willie Walsh, chief executive of its owner, International Airlines Group (IAG).
Operating profits at IAG rose more than 20 per cent to €1.45 billion for the nine months to September 30th, 2017, up from €1.2 billion during the same period last year.
Speaking after the group published its results, Mr Walsh said that Aer Lingus’s planned purchase of eight Airbus A321 Long Range craft opened the possibility of it serving 10 new cities in the US within five years.
“It is unlikely that we would operate to all 10, some would be competing with each other, but we are out there talking to airports that could be served,” Mr Walsh said.
He added that US airports frequently approached him saying they “would love to see” Aer Lingus and Level, IAG’s new long-haul airline, flying there.
Aer Lingus chief operating officer, Mike Rutter, revealed the airline's plans to buy the A321s, priced at around €100 million each, this month. Mr Walsh said on Friday that the aircraft had significant potential.
The Irish airline wants to increase its transatlantic passengers at Dublin Airport to 4.5 million by 2020 from an expected 2.5 million this year.
Aer Lingus began flying to Miami recently. Last year it launched services to Los Angeles, Newark, New Jersey and Hartford, Connecticut.
IAG’s results noted that Aer Lingus continued its expansion across the North Atlantic.
The group’s profit before exceptional items for the period was €2.43 billion, which was up 26.9 per cent from the €1.9 billion last year. The company had cash of €7.5 billion at September 30th, 2017, which was up €1.1 billion on the 2016 year end.
Commenting on the results, Mr Walsh said: “We’re reporting another strong quarter with an operating profit up 20.7 per cent to €1.4 billion before exceptional items.
"All our companies performed well. Passenger unit revenue was up 2.2 per cent at constant currency, boosted by improvements in the Spanish and Latin American markets. Our commercial performance was good despite underlying disruption from severe weather and terrorism.
"IAG Cargo improved in the quarter due to stronger Asia Pacific demand compared to last year. We're pleased to announce an interim dividend of 12.5 cents per share."