Willie Walsh says Aer Lingus flights to China a possibility

IAG boss, speaking at Smurfit school, said China a ‘natural destination’ for Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus

could fly from the Republic to


in the future if trade between the two countries drove demand for the service, the chief executive of the Irish carrier’s parent said yesterday.


Willie Walsh, who heads International Consolidated Airlines' Group (IAG), which bought Aer Lingus last year for €1.4 billion, said that its ambitions for the Irish company do not stop at Europe and the Atlantic.

“Aer Lingus could fly to Asia over the long term, and China would be the natural destination,” he said. “You would need to have a clear basis for putting flights in place. The trade links would have to be there.”

Mr Walsh said that, unlike its transatlantic services, an Aer Lingus Dublin-China service would not benefit from picking up transfer passengers, which “makes it a much more difficult proposition”.

Dublin-US routes

Aer Lingus is launching three new Dublin routes, to Los Angeles, Connecticut and New Jersey, this year. Mr Walsh said the airline and IAG were weighing a number of potential new US destinations.

“We might do something in 2017, and I would be surprised if we did not do something by 2018,” he said. He noted that being part of the wider IAG network is aiding Aer Lingus in growing passenger numbers.

Mr Walsh was in Dublin to launch the Europe’s first master’s in aviation finance at UCD’s Smurfit Graduate Business School. Ireland is a hub for aircraft leasing, employing 1,000 people and adding about €4.1 billion to the economy.

Aircraft lessors Aercap, Avolon, GE Capital Aviation Services, SMBC Aviation Capital, engine manufacturer Snecma and accountants KPMG developed the course in partnership with the business school.

Mr Walsh said the partnership would ensure that graduates had the “combination of academic rigour married with relevant experience through the practical research and internship programmes, which are a key part of the course”.

Course leader Patrick Blaney said the success of any master's degree hinged on its intellectual content and the career opportunities it creates.

International interest

“We have had significant interest in the programme from overseas graduates,” he said, “in particular from Hong Kong, Singapore and China, who recognise the unique opportunity to gain specialist knowledge of the principles of aircraft and corporate finance activities direct from industry leaders.”

The school’s dean, Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said the new course would provide the industry with the talent it needs to grow in the long term.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas