Irish carrier Aer Lingus is once again studying its alliance options but will not make a hasty decision on which path to take, says chief executive Christoph Mueller (seen below).
“It is a very complex business case and we do not expect a decision anytime soon,” he says.
The carrier, which was a member of oneworld up to April 2007 but left to pursue an independent, low-fare strategy, has forged new partnerships and codeshares in recent year, including deals with United Airlines and JetBlue Airways.
For Mueller, much of the carrier’s thinking is going into how the Aer Lingus brand would be treated under different alliance senarios. “Whichever way we go I believe Aer Lingus should remain as a brand,” he says.
There are models where even if a carrier is acquired by a larger parent that its brand can remain intact, says Mueller, citing the takeover of Brussels Airlines by Lufthansa Group. But this could be in doubt if the bidder was not welcome.
“I believe a hostile takeover would mean Aer Lingus would cease to exist as a brand – this should be avoided,” says Mueller.
Aer Lingus has been the target of two takeover bids by Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair, both of which it has rebuffed. Ryanair is the single largest shareholder in Aer Lingus with a 29.82% stake.
Mueller says that the turnaround strategy being pursued by Aer Lingus has the full support of all large shareholders including Ryanair.
The Aer Lingus management team talks to Ryanair executives four times a year to explain its strategy but the low-cost carrier declines to be represented, as it is entitled to, on the Aer Lingus board.