Etihad trimmed Aer Lingus plan

London // Etihad Airways’ chief executive says the company bought its stake in Aer Lingus based on a strategy of increasing the number of flights between Dublin and Abu Dhabi.

James Hogan told aviation industry executives at an event in London on Thursday that the original plan was for a “large investment”, but once it became clear that the management of the Irish carrier did not share Etihad’s vision, the company moved on to focus on deals with airberlin and Alitalia.

“The landscape has changed,” he said. “It is a great airline, profitable and functional. The vision could have been for a large investment.”

Mr Hogan was on Thursday reported by media as indicating that the Abu Dhabi airline could sell its stake if the Irish government backs a €1.35 billion (Dh5.41bn) offer made for its flag carrier by the British Airways parent International Airlines Group. Qatar Airways owns a 10 per cent stake in IAG.

Between 2012 and last year, Etihad accumulated more than 4 per cent of the Dublin-based carrier. The two airlines operate code shares on routes between Dublin and Abu Dhabi, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Kuala Lumpur, Muscat and Bahrain.

Aer Lingus last year increased flights to San Francisco from Dublin and to Boston and New York from Shannon as part of its trans-Atlantic expansion plans announced the year before.

Mr Hogan said that the tie-up become less strategically important to Etihad once the Aer Lingus management, led by the previous chief executive Christopher Mueller, had decided to focus on increasing capacity on trans-Atlantic routes.

Etihad operates 10 flights a week from its base in Abu Dhabi to Dublin and has increased capacity by deploying larger aircraft on the route.

Etihad’s growth strategy is focused on expanding its global route network by code-share partnerships and forming equity alliances, in which it invests in carriers in strategically important regions.

Its equity alliance partners include airberlin, Alitalia, Virgin Australia, India’s Jet and Air Seychelles.

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