International Airlines Group (IAG) is looking at opportunities for Shannon, according the group’s CEO, Willie Walsh. Addressing an audience of almost 300 business executives at Shannon Chamber’s president’s lunch in Dromoland Castle Hotel last Friday, November 24, Walsh outlined how IAG has grown since it was founded in 2011, following the merger of British Airways and Iberia, its acquisition of Vueling in 2012 and Aer Lingus in 2015, and the launch of two low-cost airlines, Iberia Express and Level, in June 2017.
IAG’s operating profits in 2016 were €2.5 billion and the group is on target to reach €3 billion in 2017. The airline group now carries 101 million passengers, has 548 aircraft and employs 63,000 people.
Describing Aer Lingus as the “trophy asset”, Walsh said that IAG’s rationale for purchasing the airline was the opportunity offered by its transatlantic network, the benefits from Ireland’s geographic position, both for Shannon and Dublin, and pre-clearance, which, he said, is the envy of a lot of airports around the world.
Commenting on the new low-cost airline, Level, Walsh described this as a model that could offer potential for Ireland and could sit side-by-side and grow with Aer Lingus.
“Having sold 50,000 seats in the first 48 hours proves that you can stimulate demand to a new customer segment and that this is a model that can work,” he said.
The next phase of Level’s expansion will be announced shortly.
Commenting on Brexit, he added: “I don’t see it impacting on us in the medium to long-term as we believe people will continue to fly. There will be a comprehensive Air Transport Agreement between the EU and the UK and this agreement will be good for all parties. It would be a retrograde step if the EU was not to reach an agreement with the UK.
“There will be challenges as anything that impacts negatively on the UK economy will impact negatively on Ireland’s economy. Nevertheless, I am quite pessimistic about the economics of the UK and Europe and that we will overcome and get back to a normal trading relationship over time.”
Pictured above: Willie Walsh, CEO, IAG pictured at Dromoland Castle Hotel with Helen Downes, Shannon Chamber CEO; Sean Flannery, general manager GECAS and executive vice president, technical and engine leasing for GECAS; and Julie Dickerson, president, Shannon Chamber.
Photo: Eamon Ward.