Aer Lingus eyes contract-flying opportunities

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Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller sees opportunities to expand the Irish flag carrier’s contract-flying business because the void left by the demise of BMI has yet to be filled.

Mueller says he has been approached by a number of airlines to discuss possible contract-flying deals since Aer Lingus began operating Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red feeder services to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester last year.

“I believe there are so many opportunities out there in the market because there is no replacement for BMI so there is a lot of feed for the Heathrow-operating carriers that hasn’t found a home yet,” he says.

There are also opportunities for Virgin Atlantic to expand its Little Red operation via the slots British Airways must give up on an annual basis as a precondition of its takeover of BMI, adds Mueller. “I believe there is a market opportunity there,” he says, “but it is up to Virgin Atlantic to decide.”

Aer Lingus’s contract operations for Virgin Atlantic broke even in 2013 but the Dublin-based carrier expects them to make a profit in 2014.

It says that in 2013 “other revenue” – which include fees from the Aer Lingus Regional franchise operation and Little Red business – grew 160% in 2013 “as a result of the commencement of contract-flying operations”.