Aer Lingus has no intention of rejoining the Oneworld alliance, dashing the hopes of sibling British Airways for the Irish flag-carrier to take its seat at the Oneworld table sometime in 2018.
"We have no plans to join Oneworld," Aer Lingus CEO Stephen Kavanagh told the European Aviation Conference at Dublin City University yesterday. "We still have to do the business case for joining Oneworld."
Instead, Kavanagh said that Aer Lingus would work towards joining the existing alliance between British Airways and American Airlines.
Aer Lingus' AerClub frequent flyer scheme has recently adopted as its currency the same Avios used by fellow IAG-owned airlines British Airways, Iberia, Vuelling and Level, with plans to join a unified 'points-bank' shared by those airlines by June 2018.
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However, a more likely timeframe could be 2018 due to the work required to integrate a new member airline's systems – including the technology back-end – into the Oneworld network.
Speaking with USA Today, Willie Walsh, CEO of Aer Lingus parent International Airlines Group, said "I would expect it in 2017, but I don’t have an exact date."
"We don’t have a specific timeline. We’re working as quickly as we can. But these issues aren’t always as simple as they might appear. IT tends to be the issue that drives the timeline on most of this – getting the Aer Lingus systems capable of interacting with the other Oneworld carrier systems."
Aer Lingus was a Oneworld member until 2007, when it left the global airline group as part of a strategic shift away from the premium market to become a low-cost airline.
The airline has since reversed course and was last year taken over by IAG – which also owns British Airways – in a £1bn buy-out.
Aer Lingus has already moved to bring its frequent flyer scheme in line with that of British Airways, retiring its long-running Gold Circle loyalty program in favour of a new AerClub scheme using BA's Avios points as its currency.
AerClub will offer four status tiers starting with Green, then Silver and Platinum before topping out at Concierge.
These are expected to align against Oneworld status tiers as Ruby (AerClub Silver), Sapphire (AerClub Platinum) and Emerald (AerClub Concierge)
Concierge-grade members will enjoy four free upgrades each year, free WiFi on international flights and partner membership at the Silver level
BA is expected to put forward Aer Lingus for Oneworld membership in 2017, although it typically takes around 12 months to formally join the alliance.
"We anticipate IAG formally proposing Aer Lingus for Oneworld membership at the appropriate time" a spokesman for the Oneworld alliance told Australian Business Traveller.
Aer Lingus has declined to comment on the subject.