Despite having been a shareholder in Aer Lingus for many years, it looks like budget carrier Ryanair may finally ‘connect’ with its fellow Irish operator within the next year as it seeks to conclude discussions to start feeding the national carrier’s growing long-haul network from Dublin Airport.
Ryanair has confirmed it is actively talking to legacy operators to provide efficient short-haul feed to medium- and long-haul operators, with its previously out-spoken boss, Michael O’Leary, forecasting that full service carriers like British Airways and Lufthansa will eventually drop short-haul routes from their networks in order to create interlining deals with regional and low-cost carriers.
It is understood that Irish carriers Aer Lingus and Ryanair could begin to connect services as early as next year. It has been revealed that the biggest carriers on the Emerald Isle began talks last year about the possibility of Ryanair feeding passengers from their network to the long-haul flights offered by Aer Lingus from Dublin and Shannon airports.
Speaking at the Phoscuswright Europe conference in Dublin this week, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, confirmed the carrier was “doing a deal with Aer Lingus” on flight connections. “We would be very surprised if there weren’t connections within the next 12 months,” he said.
A provisional deal is also understood to already be on the table with fellow low-fare carrier Norwegian to feed its low-cost, long-haul network out of Scandinavia, France and the UK through an interline partnership.
Whilst these services are in the interests of the partnering carriers, the agreements would only form a small part of Ryanair’s business. Jacobs said at the conference that such plans “will only ever be the glazing on the cherry on the icing on the cake”.
Aer Lingus is expanding its Transatlantic presence under the stewardship of the International Airlines Group, also the parent of European flag carriers British Airways and Iberia. It recently relaunched flights between Dublin and Los Angeles after an eight year hiatus, while flights to Newark, New Jersey and Hartford, Connecticut will launch this September.
The national carrier is doing a strong job feeding these routes through its own mainline short-haul operations and particularly from the UK through its Aer Lingus Regional franchise offering. The addition of Ryanair feed from its network of almost 100 destinations into Dublin, would further strengthen its activities and could sustainably support additional routes.
Alongside its work with other airlines, Ryanair is also starting an internal trial on connections between its own flights at two of its major bases this summer. This will occur over a yet to be determined period at both Barcelona El Prat and London Stansted airports.
The trial “will allow customers to connect onto Ryanair flights without having to go back through security,” the airline said in a statement. If successful, Ryanair said it would “consider rolling it out elsewhere across its network”.
As part of a low-cost strategy, no-frills airlines had shied away from offering guaranteed connections due to the costs of recovery that can be involved when flights are missed or baggage is mishandled. However, with Ryanair’s revised customer facing outlook, transition to serving more capital city airports, and seeking higher-yield traffic, such a move could provide a significant financial advantages across many indirect European city pair markets.
Schedule data from Intelligence provider, OAG, shows that together Aer Lingus and Ryanair hold a 78.7 percent share of the capacity on offer at Dublin Airport. They are the two leading operators at the growing hub with Ryanair offering over 7.1 million departure seats this year (a 42.8 percent share) and Aer Lingus offering very close to 6.0 million (a 35.9 percent share). This represents their largest annual scheduled offering from Dublin Airport.
(Additional reporting by Edward Robertson, editor, Routes News in Dublin)