Ryanair and Aer Lingus Near Passenger Sharing Deal
Photo courtesy of Ryanair
International Airlines Group CEO Willie Walsh has announced that Ryanair is close to deal to share passengers with IAG-owned Aer Lingus. Walsh described the deal as nearly inevitable: "I'd be surprised if we don't reach an agreement with them at some point.”
He added that the idea has been raised in IAG’s boardroom and there is "no objection to it.”
This isn’t just a one-sided rumor that IAG is trying to build. Ryanair has expressed interest in a passenger-sharing venture as well. The low cost carrier’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, has repeatedly expressed interest in some sort of interlining agreement with a major long-haul carrier.
Today, Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs, said that Aer Lingus was the airline that Ryanair wanted to work with and that a deal would likely be completed before the end of this year.
This would be a major boost for Aer Lingus, which is trying to expand its presence on major transatlantic routes. It recently re-launched service between Dublin and Los Angeles after an eight year hiatus. There are plans to operate as many as 25 transatlantic flights per day by the end of the year. Ryanair would act as a feeder service for these services, turning Dublin into a kind of mini-Dubai where fliers from all over Europe could connect to transatlantic flights (much like Asian and European travelers connect in Dubai).
Aer Lingus isn’t the only long haul provider courting Ryanair. Jacobs also said that his airline is close to a passenger sharing deal with Norwegian Air Shuttle subsidiary Norwegian Air International. NAI just got approval to fly from Ireland to destinations in North America. Its first routes will be to Boston from Cork and Shannon airports.
Jacobs made it clear that, while these are the kind of arrangements that Ryanair has been seeking, they will only play a small role in the airline’s overall expansion plans in Europe. He explained that the interlining deals with Aer Lingus and Norwegian “will only ever be the glazing on the cherry on the icing on the cake.”
READ MORE: Why Aer Lingus Is Expanding Its US Network
Major carriers will probably be watching how this deal plays out. O’Leary has predicted that airlines like British Airways and Lufthansa would eventually drop their short-haul routes and instead look for interlining deals with his airline and other low cost and regional carriers.
There might be something to this rumor. Some of Europe’s full-service carriers have tried to launch their own low-cost wings (like Lufthansa’s subsidiary Eurowings), but they have struggled when confronted with competition from Ryanair and its already-established peers.
So deals like the apparently-soon-to-be-signed agreement between Ryanair and Aer Lingus could become more and more common. Both Aer Lingus and Norwegian have low-cost business models, so they are probably a better fit for Ryanair when it comes to passenger sharing.
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