March 22, 2007 / 1:30 PM / 12 years ago

Aer Lingus plans new routes after EU-U.S. deal

DUBLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ireland’s Aer Lingus welcomed an EU-U.S. “open skies” agreement on Thursday and said it would launch three new routes to the United States this year, propelling shares in the airline to a record high.

Hailing the decision, taken by EU transport ministers in Brussels, as “a momentous development for Irish aviation”, the recently floated former state carrier said it planned services to San Francisco, Washington (Dulles) and Orlando.

The new routes increase the number of Aer Lingus’ trans-atlantic services to seven from four.

The company plans to take delivery of two new A330 longhaul aircraft this summer.

Earlier on Thursday, Irish Transport Minister Martin Cullen told Reuters in Brussels the service to Dulles would begin in September, with the other two routes to start in October.

Cullen also said current restrictions on flights in and out of Ireland, known as the “Shannon Stop”, will be phased out as part of the deal to open up the market for air travel between Europe and the United States.

The Irish government holds a 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus, which faces fierce competition from domestic rival Ryanair on European routes and has pinned future growth prospects on its longhaul operation.

Shares in the company rose following the deal and were 4.2 percent higher at 3.25 euros by 2:07 p.m. having earlier risen as high as 3.30 euros and to their highest point since the company’s stock market listing last September.

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