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Aer Lingus in Virgin wet lease deal

Monday, December 10 16:07:34

Aer Lingus today said it has signed a deal with Virgin Atlantic to operate U.K. routes feeding Virgin's long- haul services, in a so-called "wet-lease" agreement.

Using aircraft carrying the U.K. airline's brand, Aer Lingus will run a combined 24 flights a day linking Manchester, England, and two cities in Scotland with London Heathrow airport, Virgin Atlantic said today in a statement.

British Airways completed the purchase of unprofitable BMI from Deutsche Lufthansa AG in April and dismantled it.

Virgin, controlled by U.K. billionaire Richard Branson, is taking over some Heathrow takeoff and landing slots that its main competitor gave up to win antitrust approval for the BMI deal, and the flights will be Virgin's first short-haul services under its own badge, it said.

Virgin Atlantic currently serves 34 intercontinental routes from its Heathrow base, and BMI, which also had its main hub at the airport, provided some transfer passengers under a code- share agreement. Virgin plans to lease four Airbus SAS narrow- body A320 planes and crews from Aer Lingus and expects to carry almost 1 million passengers a year on the short-haul services, it said.