Aer Lingus buys twelve new long-haul Airbus jets

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Aer Lingus Airbus A320-200 from the current fleet.

Irish national airline Aer Lingus have purchased 12 new long-haul Airbus aircraft as a means of modernising it's long-haul fleet and improving it's transatlantic network.

Under the agreement, Aer Lingus Group PLC said it will receive six new A330-300E aircraft from 2009 to 2011, then between 2014 and 2016 it will take delivery of six new A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body) aircraft, a new design currently under development by Airbus. Aer Lingus also have options of six more A350s to exercise by 2018.

Aer Lingus already operates an all-Airbus fleet consisting of 30 short-haul aircraft( 24 A320s and 6 A321s) and eight long-haul A330s, and had made the purchase of new long-haul airliners a top priority since the formerly state-owned company was floated on British and Irish stock markets in September 2006. The airline had approached Airbus rival Boeing regarding a potential deal for their new 787 aircraft, but Aer Lingus Chief Executive Dermot Mannion stated that he believed the Airbus aircraft were “better on fuel and better on range” than the 787. He also said that, although the aircraft have a catalogue value of €1.78 billion (US$2.4 billion), Airbus had offered them at an "exceptional discounts” on them. Some of the A330s will be replaced by the new aircraft.

As well as new routes to the US, Mannion stated that there was a possibility of routes elsewhere resulting from the new aircraft as well, saying, “We will prioritize the U.S. (but) we have an eye as to what's happening to the Far East and South Africa.” The airline already offers flights to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dubai, and recently launched 3 new U.S. routes to San Francisco, Orlando, and Washington.

Aer Lingus shares on the Irish Stock Exchange fell 2.5 percent to €2.73 ($3.68) the day the deal was announced. It will fall through unless backed by shareholders.

Aer Lingus rival Ryanair has been attempting to take over Aer Lingus since December, and if this bid is successful, the new aircraft may become redundant as Ryanair intends to end transatlantic services. However, the Irish government, which holds a 25 percent share in Aer Lingus, disapproves of the takeover, as do Aer Lingus employee-controlled trusts that hold more than 15 percent shares. Ryanair owns a 25 percent share in Aer Lingus. The takeover is also unlikely to receive regulatory approval from the European Union.

Mannion said of the integration of the new aircraft "The A350 XWB fits in with our ambitious plans to expand existing routes and to open up new ones from our hub in Dublin. We already have an all Airbus fleet and the new aircraft will fit in seamlessly."