Willie Walsh and International Consolidated Airlines' Group (IAG) were obviously keen yesterday to demonstrate that they are as good as their word about backing plans to expand Aer Lingus's reach across the Atlantic.
One of the key selling points of IAG's bid for Aer Lingus was that it would enable the Irish airline to fulfil – and possibly exceed – its ambitions to expand its transatlantic business a lot faster that would have been possible had it remained as independent.
Yesterday, the airline announced plans to fly to Los Angeles, Newark and Hartford, Connecticut, from next year. The LA service, five days a week, year-round, will kick off in May. The others, daily year-round services, take off in September.
It is a considerable expansion. By next September, the airline's services to North America will have increased to nine from six. It will fly to somewhere on the continent 28 times a day.
The number of Aer Lingus seats available on transatlantic routes will increase by 17 per cent next year to more than two million.
Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh acknowledged that the airline had been working on at least some of the new routes, Hartford in particular, for some time before IAG came along.
However, he argued that IAG’s arrival meant that the expansion was happening more quickly that it would otherwise have done. “We’re frontloading the growth plans,” he said.
Interestingly, Walsh signalled that expansion would not necessarily run in one direction.
He told the press that if traffic through IAG's other hubs, Heathrow and Madrid, provided evidence of strong underlying demand from Ireland for direct flights to the Far East and South America, then the group would back those services too.
“If there is an opportunity to serve those destinations directly, then we are going to do it, that’s the business we’re in,” he said.