Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton highlighted yesterday that its new regional partner, Emerald Airlines, would play a key part in aiding the carrier in developing its hub at Dublin Airport.
Since International Airlines Group (IAG) bought Aer Lingus in 2015, it has backed a strategy, developed by the Irish airline, to connect passengers travelling between Europe and North America at Dublin Airport.
This helped support an increasing number of transatlantic flights to existing and new destinations. The spin off nationally was that it strengthened links with the United States, a key trading partner, investor and source of tourists; and forged new ones with Canada, increasingly seen as a destination for exports following a trade deal with the European Union.
By early 2020, Aer Lingus was flying to 15 cities across both countries while talking about doubling that by 2025. Now it just serves Boston, Chicago and JFK New York from Dublin. It . IAG acknowledged last week that cargo was supporting much of the US business, but the airline is seeing some increases in demand for those flights.
Nevertheless, Embleton’s reference to the role that Emerald will play in feeding passengers into transatlantic services indicates a clear intention that Aer Lingus intends on rebuilding this business.
However, Covid-19 restrictions remain in place on both sides of the pond. These include a US ban on discretionary travel by non-citizens and non-residents. Ultimately, it is likely that Washington will ease this for the EU and UK.
There is plenty of speculation about the timing but once it happens, it will allow European carriers such as Aer Lingus to look at stepping up and restarting services.
Meanwhile, US airlines have been rebuilding their balance sheets and cash reserves on a strong domestic recovery. This could give the likes of American Airlines, Delta and United the scope to pose stiff competition to European rivals once restrictions ease. Either way, there is no doubt that Aer Lingus faces a long haul in rebuilding its transatlantic network.