Posted on Thursday 3 May 2012 by Ulster Business

 Mueller

Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Mueller

Aer Lingus has reported a loss for the first quarter of 2012, but the result was a significant improvement on the same period last year.

The Irish flag carrier also gave a more upbeat outlook for the full year, saying that it expected to match the €49.1m operating profit posted in 2011, despite the weak performance of some short haul routes.

The airline reported an operating loss of €36.1m in three months to March 31 - which it said was “seasonally loss making” – but this was markedly better than the €53.7m loss it recorded in the first quarter a year earlier.

The improvement was driven primarily by strong revenue performance, with yield per passenger up 8.4% and passenger numbers up by 6.6%, the company said.

Long haul performance was particularly strong, with first quarter passenger volumes and yield up 12.1% and 11.2%, respectively, compared to the prior year. Retail revenue per passenger increased by 8.5% in the period.

Christoph Mueller, CEO of Aer Lingus, said: “Aer Lingus experienced an encouraging start to 2012 and the Group’s Q1 2012 operating loss of €36.1m represents a 32.8% improvement over Q1 2011. This result is mainly due to strong yield growth, particularly on long haul. We have deliberately compensated for the continuing decline in private Irish consumer demand with an increased focus on time sensitive routes, which carry a higher proportion of business travellers.

“We now share the more upbeat view on industry trends expressed in IATA’s April 2012 airline business confidence survey and if current trends continue, Aer Lingus’ operating profit for 2012 should match that achieved in 2011. However, the performance of certain short haul routes is weaker than expected and our business continues to be subject to inflationary cost pressures.

“We remain focused on our cost base and continue to explore measures to protect the Group’s profitability for the remainder of 2012 and beyond.”

The company also said it “remains financially strong” with gross cash balances of €1bn as at 31 March 2012.

Earlier this week it emerged that Middle East airline Etihad has built up a 3% stake in Aer Lingus.

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