On Tuesday 1st of May it was announced that Etihad Airways acquired a 2.987% stake in Aer Lingus for an undisclosed sum, a week after Transaero Airlines acquired Air Atlanta Aero Engineering in Shannon which is a further endorsement of the strength of the aviation industry in Ireland.

Aer Lingus issued a statement ‘Aer Lingus and Etihad are engaged in discussions which to date have focused on reciprocal code-share opportunities, Future discussions may explore additional commercial and cost opportunities to develop a closer working relationship in areas such as joint procurement’.

Their could be immense opportunities for Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways out of a possible commercial agreement,firstly a new code-share agreement would leverage the strengths of each perspective hub as Aer Lingus has a strong brand presence in North America and UK Provincial markets (Aer Lingus Regional) and the competitive advantage of Terminal 2 US CBP in Dublin. Their has been media reports Etihad Airways intends to increase the frequency of Dublin route from 10 to 14 flights per week which could open potential mutually beneficial connecting traffic flows over Dublin.

Aer Lingus has the fourth largest slot portfolio in London Heathrow which could be mutually commercial opportunity for Etihad Airways planning to increase Abu Dhabi route from three to five flights daily. Etihad Airways has a strong market presence in Asia and Australia with the carrier signalling recently China and India will be strategically important markets in the next 10 to 15 years with strong outbound traffic from those markets.


Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways share a common fleet platform with A320 family for short-haul and A330 for long-haul both carriers have the A350 on order so there could be potential synergies as part of a larger airline group. Aer Lingus plans to place an order to replace its 37 A320/1s in the next 18-24 months it is currently evaluating the A320NEO and B737 Max.

There could be potential joint procurement synergies with Etihad Airways in airport costs, aircraft acquisition/financing, distribution/GDS (Sabre),  fuel, ground handling, and supply chain, sales & marketing also to leverage code-share opportunities with Etihad Airways partners such as Virgin Australia.Their could be scope for Aer Lingus to address the increasingly counter-cycle seasonality of the business through sub-leasing aircraft for the winter period.

Interestingly Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways share a multiple partnership strategy which could potentially ensure Aer Lingus independence as part of a larger airline group. Etihad Airways acquired 29.21% of Air Berlin in December 2011 and 40% of Air Seychelles last January. We await with interest the next developments with this story as a new chapter begins for Aer Lingus.

Irish Aviation Research Institute © 2nd May 2012