Aer Lingus has suffered a collapse in passenger numbers and revenue as it searches for a new chief executive, but low-cost rival Ryanair continues to grow its traffic.

Aer Lingus' first-quarter revenues were 16% down on those for the same period in 2008. Total passenger numbers fell 6.5% and long-haul traffic suffered an even sharper drop, of 12.5%. Against this backdrop, the airline is to "review its long-term requirement for the long-haul capacity on order with Airbus".

The carrier's long-haul fleet comprises four A330-200s and five -300s. It signed a purchase agreement in 2007 for 12 long-haul Airbus aircraft - six A350-900s and six A330-300s. Deliveries of the A330s have begun, and the A350s are due to arrive from 2014.

Aer Lingus 
 © Rex Features

Aer Lingus forecasts that its loss for the 2009 full year will be "materially below the bottom of the range of current market expectations".

When Dermot Mannion stepped down as chief executive in April, chairman Colm Barrington assumed executive responsibility. UK recruitment firm The Zygos Partnership has been hired to help find Mannion's successor.

But Barrington stresses that required changes cannot wait for a new chief executive. In response to a decline in leisure travel from Ireland to the USA, Aer Lingus is taking "a very critical look" at its US operations, he says. "The likelihood is we will not be operating as many routes or frequencies as we currently operate.

"If Aer Lingus is to survive as an independent airline... we have to make the airline efficient in the modern marketplace. The extra concern for Aer Lingus is that if it doesn't make itself successful, and therefore retain its independence, it will get acquired."

Aer Lingus has twice staved off hostile takeover bids by Irish budget carrier Ryanair, which holds a near-30% stake in it. Ryanair's own passenger numbers rose 12% year-on-year in April, to 5.3 million.


Source: Flight International