In a statement to the Irish Stock Exchange Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic Airways announced that they have reached preliminary agreement under which it is planned that Aer Lingus will ‘wet lease’ aircraft to operate certain short haul routes for Virgin Atlantic.

Aer Lingus plans to lease to Virgin four Airbus A320-200 aircraft together with all crew, all maintenance, hull and third party legal liability insurance (ACMI). This preliminary agreement remains subject to contract and the agreement is for an initial 3 year period, is expected to create 155 jobs.

The four Aer Lingus aircraft are planned to commence operations on 31 March 2013 and it is intended that the aircraft will be deployed, in Virgin livery, on short haul services connecting London Heathrow (Terminal 1) with Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen carrying up to 1 million passengers annually.

The aircraft will operate with a single class configuration, but Flying Club Gold card holders and Upper Class passengers connecting onto Upper Class long-haul flights will have access to airport lounges at their departure airport, plus access to limo transfer services.

The carrier will also provide “The best in British food and snacks on board, including a hot breakfast offering on early morning flights and specially-produced snacks during the rest of the day”.

Aer Lingus chief commercial officer Stephen Kavanagh said “We are very pleased to have reached agreement in principle with Virgin Atlantic to provide the aircraft, maintenance and crew with which they will serve their new domestic operations, and look forward to now progressing to contract.”

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said “These services operating from Edinburgh and Aberdeen will provide direct links to and from London Heathrow, as well seamlessly linking into Virgin’s long-haul network creating new links between Scotland and the rest of the world. Together, this will only benefit Scotland’s business and leisure travelers.”

Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Steve Ridgway said “Throughout our history, Virgin Atlantic has successfully fought British Airways all over the world and has offered passengers a compelling alternative through our renowned product and service.

We will look to replicate that in our short-haul flying and challenge the current BA monopoly on these routes which is causing serious consumer harm.

Virgin Atlantic will offer millions of passengers in Scotland and Manchester connections around the world through our and our partners’ long-haul network, with the additional benefit of providing direct services to and from London Heathrow. This is a robust business model that will protect competition to and from Heathrow for the long term “.

Virgin Atlantic will use 9 of the 12 slot pairs acquired at London Heathrow following the sale of BMI Airlines to the IAG Group to launch the new routes to Aberdeen and Edinburgh, for 24 daily domestic flights with three to Aberdeen and six to Edinburgh and three to Manchester , with tickets on sale from 19th December starting at £99 return

Virgin Atlantic and Aer Lingus currently operate an interline agreement and plan to explore opportunities for further commercial co-operation in the future.

Irish Aviation Research Institute © 10th December 2012 All Rights Reserved.