By Shane McGinley
Reports also claim the Abu Dhabi carrier is eying a seat on the Irish carrier’s board
Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has signed a codesharing agreement with Aer Lingus, the Irish carrier it bought a 2.987 percent stake in last May, amidst reports the UAE airline is eying a seat on the board on former Irish flag carrier and is interested in acquiring the Dublin government’s 25 percent stake.
Under the latest agreement between the two airlines, Etihad will place its “EY” code on Aer Lingus flights between Dublin, Manchester and London Heathrow, and destinations in Ireland, the British Isles, the Channel Islands, Portugal, the Netherlands and the US.
In return, Aer Lingus will place its “EI” code on Etihad Airways flights between Abu Dhabi and Dublin, and have full access to flights across the network beyond Abu Dhabi, to points including Australia, Asia-Pacific, the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East.
This will be Etihad’s 36th codesharing deal and the links between the two airlines are reportedly set to increase with The Telegraph newspaper claiming the Abu Dhabi carrier is eying a seat on Aer Lingus’ board.
“The codeshare agreement is an early indication of the success of Etihad Airways’ strategic plan to acquire equity in Aer Lingus and other airlines and the instant benefit it brings to both airlines’ customers around the world,” said James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ president and CEO.
Etihad has pursued a number of acquisitions as part of global expansion, picking up stakes in Virgin Australia, Air Berlin and Air Seychelles and Hogan said in an interview at the weekend he would be interested in acquiring the Dublin government’s 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus.
“We’ve always said that when the Irish Government divests we’re very keen to look at it but they’ve not approached us on that,” Hogan said in an interview with industry publication ATW. “Until that’s timetabled I can’t say any more.”
Budget Irish airline Ryanair, which holds a 29.8 percent stake in Aer Lingus, is also looking to get its hands on the government-owned stake and has asked EU antitrust regulators to approve its third €694m (US$855m) takeover bid.
The European Commission, which acts as EU competition watchdog, said on its website at the weekend it would decide by August 29 whether to clear the deal.
The EU executive blocked Ryanair's 2007 attempted takeover of Aer Lingus, saying the combined group would monopolise or dominate 35 routes, leading to consumers paying more. It said Ryanair had not offered to give up enough airport slots to allay its concerns. Ryanair dropped its second offer in 2009.
Turkish Airlines was last month also named as another possible bidder for Aer Lingus, according to a report in the Dublin-based Sunday Business Post newspaper.For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.