Aer Lingus narrows Q1 losses on long-haul boost

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Aer Lingus has reduced its operating losses to €36.1 million ($47.4 million) for the first quarter ending 31 March, propped up by its outperforming long-haul segments.

The Q1 operating loss, which excludes exceptional items, marks a 32.8% improvement on the same period last year.

Stronger revenue performance was the driving force behind the recovery, the Irish flag carrier says, with yields up 8.4% and passenger numbers up 6.6%. Long-haul sectors fared particularly well, with yields and volumes rising 11.2% and 12.1% respectively.

The comparative results were also boosted by last year's cabin crew strikes, which adversely affected Q1 2011 losses.

"We have deliberately compensated for the continuing decline in private Irish consumer demand with an increased focus on serving time-sensitive traffic, which comprises a higher proportion of business travellers," chief executive Christoph Mueller says.

He cautions, however, that certain short-haul segments have performed "weaker than expected" and the airline continues to suffer from "inflationary cost pressures".

Earlier this week, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways acquired a 3% stake in the Irish flag carrier, capping months of speculation over a deal. Aer Lingus shares are up 58% this year after the Irish government confirmed plans to sell its 25% holding in the airline.