web Musings of The Global Traveller

Friday, January 23, 2009

United flight Washington to Madrid operated by Aer Lingus

United Airlines yesterday announced one of the oddest airline codeshare arrangements I've come across. They intend launching a Washington to Madrid flight, but it will be operated by Aer Lingus (thanks to Open Skies the flight does not need to start or end in Ireland). Source United.

So we have a full service airline that is struggling with yields in charge of revenue, and a low cost airline that slashes costs in charge of operations, starting a thin route against an entrenched competitor (Iberia) in a time of a recession. That sounds like a recipe for terrible service and a financial disaster.

The Cranky Flier has given a good explanation of why this is not a good idea for the airlines (except for Ryan Air!). Assuming it gets off the ground, I also think it is a bad idea for customers.

Aer Lingus, some may recall, left the Oneworld alliance in order to reduce costs and concentrate on being a low cost airline. United markets itself as a full service airline, although of course it fails to reach the standards of the best full service airlines. For United customers on the flight (some passengers will be Aer Lingus customers having bought the flight directly through Aer Lingus) the service will likely be less than they expect, although a newer aircraft perhaps even with IFE may offset that. I bet there will not be freely available upgrades to United Mileage Plus elite members. In case of operational problems (such as delays or cancellations), customers will need to deal with Aer Lingus. I have no direct experience dealing with their call centre, but with a focus on saving costs I do not have high expectations. There are a lot of things wrong with United, but that at least have good proactive customer service during irrops or dealing with misconnections.

For a laugh, check out the quote by Aer Lingus Chief Executive Dermot Mannion (bolding mine).

"... We are very excited by the potential of the Partnership and believe
that the unique combination of two leading transatlantic
airlines can drive significant value for the shareholders of both

I think he got one bit right - it is a unique combination.

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