Commenting on the results Aer Lingus Chairman, Tom Mulcahy said: “We are very pleased with the performance achieved in 2003 despite a very difficult trading environment in the first half of the year. We have now successfully positioned Aer Lingus as a Low Fares Airline in all of our key markets.
There are many challenges ahead and I am confident we can meet these and compete successfully in the future. We must continue to change the way we do our business and further reduce costs in order to offer our customers low air fares.”
Continuing, Chief Executive, Willie Walsh, said: “We are very pleased that we exceeded our operating profit target of €75 million for 2003. We are also pleased that we made significant progress on a number of key issues during the year including the conclusion of arrangements for the transition to a single European fleet type by the end of 2005.
We increased Continental European passenger numbers by 27.6% and Transatlantic passenger numbers by 19.4%. While we are actively pursuing further growth in Europe, on our Transatlantic operation, we continue to be constrained by existing Ireland/US bilateral arrangements which restrict our operation to five destinations in the United States and which require equal services to/from Shannon and Dublin. I am confident that with the opening up of this market, we could grow our operation significantly to provide additional low fare capacity to our customers in the United States and Europe on new and existing routes.
Competition within the European market is intense and we anticipate further low cost competition on key routes in 2004. While we are in a much stronger financial position than in 2001, we can’t make the mistakes of the past. We must continue to push ahead with change and relentlessly and aggressively reduce all of our costs in order to provide lower fares to our customers.
Concluding, Willie Walsh said “We look forward to the future with confidence. Our focus in 2004 will be to continue to drive the organisation to deliver low fares with a consistent service. We have set demanding performance targets for the year. Working together in a determined manner we can continue to build a sustainable and profitable business.”