Cityjet brand will no longer fly own schedule in Aer Lingus deal

‘The partnership completes what we set out to do in 2015,’ says Cityjet founder Pat Byrne

Cityjet's new deal with Aer Lingus means that the airline will no longer fly its own scheduled routes under its own brand from October, when its bigger partner takes over the Dublin-London City Airport route.

The pair announced yesterday that Aer Lingus will take over the Dublin-London City service that had been Cityjet’s mainstay for much of its history. However, the smaller airline will continue to operate the service under its bigger partner’s brand.

Pat Byrne, Cityjet's founder and chief executive, explained that his company had transferred the service to Aer Lingus. "We are going to operate the route for Aer Lingus under contract using our aircraft, our crew and our engineering, but we will operate it under their brand," he says.

Aer Lingus will sell the tickets and pay Cityjet an agreed fee for flying the route. The arrangement, known as a "wet lease", is increasingly common as bigger airlines hire smaller carriers to fly their regional services.

Wet-lease specialist

Mr Byrne pointed out that when he returned to run Cityjet in 2015, following several changes of ownership, he wanted to convert the airline from one that mainly flew its own scheduled routes to a wet-lease specialist, operating services for others.

"The Aer Lingus partnership completes what we set out to do in 2015," he said. Cityjet already operates all of Scandinavian airline SAS's regional services under such contracts, while other clients include Air France and Brussels Airlines, a Lufthansa subsidiary.

Mr Byrne maintained that a key advantage was that the larger partners take the commercial risk as they must sell the flights, while his company’s revenues were guaranteed. He pointed out that all contracts were long term.

Cityjet has bases in Dublin, Brussels, Paris – both Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports – Scandinavia, Tallinn and Vilnius. The company has 45 aircraft and employs 1,300 people.

Mr Byrne said the shift in focus had not cost jobs. Instead, Cityjet has redeployed staff previously working on bookings and reservations to other areas.

The company recently announced an alliance with Spanish rival, Air Nostrum, that will see the pair combine to become Europe's biggest wet-lease airline. If competition regulators approve the plan, the group will have almost 100 craft and €700 million revenues.

Meanwhile, Cityjet will continue to build its charter business, which it promotes through a sponsorship deal with Leinster Rugby that Mr Byrne said it planned to maintain. "We will fly Leinster right through all this winter," he said.