More than a year has passed since International Airlines Group (“IAG”) acquired Aer Lingus and it joined British Airways, Iberia and Vueling under the umbrella of IAG.
The merger is of particular interest particularly because of both the proximity of Dublin to London Heathrow and the fact that Dublin airport offers US Customs & Immigration pre-clearance.
Whilst much has been done to align Aer Lingus to their IAG siblings, there is still a lot to be done, with many announcements yet to be made.
Here’s a quick run through of what has and hasn’t happened, with some added speculation on our part.
1. What has changed
a) Aer Lingus and British Airways are now both codesharing on each other’s flights between London and Dublin, Belfast, Shannon, Cork and Knock.
b) British Airways is now codesharing on Aer Lingus flights in Ireland from Dublin to Donegal and Kerry County.
c) British Airways is now codesharing on Aer Lingus flights from Dublin to UK regional airports including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Doncaster Sheffield, Leeds Bradford, Newcastle, Newquay and the Isle of Man.
d) British Airways is now codesharing on Aer Lingus flights from Dublin to cities in mainland Europe including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Budapest, Dusseldorf, Lyon, Malaga, Milan, Munich, Paris, Prague, Rome, Venice, Warsaw and Zurich.
e) British Airways is now codesharing on Aer Lingus transatlantic flights from Dublin to New York, Boston, Hartford, San Francisco, Los Angeles (but these can only booked through BA when connecting from the UK).
f) Aer Lingus is now codesharing on all British Airways transatlantic flights from London.
g) Aer Lingus is now codesharing on selected British Airways long-haul routes from London Heathrow to Asia, the Middle East and Africa including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Singapore.
h) Aer Lingus has added Newark, Hartford and Los Angeles to its transatlantic route network.
2. What has been announced but hasn’t happened yet
a) Aer Lingus is due to relaunch its frequent flyer programme under the name “Aer Club”. The programme will adopt the “Avios” frequent flyer currency. This means that members of the British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus programmes will be able to earn and redeem Avios on Aer Lingus and transfer Avios to/from the Aer Club if they have a membership.
b) Aer Lingus is due to rejoin the Oneworld alliance on as as yet unspecified date in early 2017.
c) Aer Lingus is due to begin co-operation with American Airlines which is a member of the Oneworld alliance and has a joint-venture with BA, Iberia and Finnair.
Whilst Aer Lingus has regulatory approval to be a member of this joint-venture, the latest comments from IAG CEO Willie Walsh is that it will first stop short of joining and will initially only code-share with American Airlines. What this means is that whilst Aer Lingus and American Airlines will put their flight numbers on each other’s flights, they will not co-ordinate schedules or share revenues.
d) Aer Lingus is due to add Inmarsat’s WiFi connectivity to 39 short-haul A320 aircraft. This is the same system that will be adopted by BA, Iberia and Vueling.
e) Aer Lingus is actively considering adding the Airbus A321 long range aircraft to its fleet and is currently in commercial discussions with Airbus. Any order would require approval from IAG.
3. What hasn’t changed
a) BA and Aer Lingus continue to operate out of different terminals at both London Heathrow and Dublin. Whilst it would make sense for the two airlines to co-locate at both airports, space constraints are likely to stop this, particularly at London Heathrow. Aer Lingus has also made a substantial investment in lounges at London Heathrow Terminal 2.
b) BA and Aer Lingus have not consolidated their schedule on overlapping routes, specifically London to Dublin and Belfast. There is precedent from the London Heathrow – Madrid route following the merger between BA and Iberia whereby schedules were re-timed to maximise efficiency by eliminating “night stops” where aircraft and crews stay away from their home base overnight (thus reducing aircraft utilisation). However, there are sensitivities around Aer Lingus’ portfolio of London Heathrow slots as it has to provide assurances that these would not be sold or transferred.
c) Aer Lingus has maintained its commercial relationships with non-Oneworld alliance airlines United Airlines, JetBlue, KLM, Etihad and Virgin Atlantic. It is likely that most of these relationships will continue.
4. What hasn’t been announced
a) It is expected that Aer Lingus will announce at least one additional transatlantic route for the summer of 2017. The most likely contenders are Miami and Dallas Fort Worth.
Update: It’s Miami.
b) Qatar Airways has acquired a 20% stake in IAG and has entered into a joint-venture with Qatar Airways. There have been press reports that Qatar Airways is due to launch a direct flight between Dublin and Doha and this may result in both Aer Lingus flying to Doha and adding codeshares on Qatar Airways flights from Doha.
c) “Densification” is current buzzword of IAG. Put simply, this is adding more seats to aircraft. It is likely that new deliveries of short-haul aicraft at the least will have more seats added to them.
d) Aer Lingus has not yet started codesharing with Iberia or Vueling on flights to Madrid or Barcelona.
e) Aer Lingus has not announced any new short-haul routes and growth in this area is likely to be limited.
f) Neither BA nor Aer Lingus have scheduled any wide-body long-haul aircraft on the London-Dublin route. Both Iberia and BA do this on London-Madrid, primarily for the benefit of being able to carry more cargo.