Aer Lingus, in joint partnership with United Airlines, plans to provide daily flights between Washington, D.C. and Madrid commencing next year, taking advantage of the Open Skies Air Services Agreement between the European Union and the U.S. Speaking at the launch of the partnership in Dublin, Aer Lingus chief executive Dermot Mannion said last Thursday that both carriers will sell seats for the route, but only aircrafts from the Aer Lingus fleet will be used for the journeys. Passengers will, as of April this year, be able to purchase a flight between Washington Dulles Airport and Madrid. Commencing in March 2010, flights will leave daily from both airports. It is hoped that additional flights will be available for sale throughout 2010 to begin operation in the summer of 2011. After two years Aer Lingus and United Airlines will review the partnership. If successful, further expansion and development will be discussed, with the possibility of adding more routes. Mannion said the announcement is the culmination of extensive discussions between the partners since 2007. "Aer Lingus has been providing long haul services for over 50 years and was the first airline to commence new trans-Atlantic services under Open Skies," he said. "This partnership builds on this proud history and will enable Aer Lingus to maximize the opportunities provided by Open Skies. 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 companies." The partnership means that both carriers will share the same commercial and operating risks and benefits. Aer Lingus will manage all the operational functions and United will take responsibility for generating revenue. Jack Foley, Aer Lingus executive vice president North America, said the partnership builds on the company's corporate strategy of extending the Aer Lingus network across the Atlantic. Aer Lingus currently has a successful partnership with JetBlue, connecting traffic to Ireland via Boston and New York from more than 25 JetBlue cities in the U.S. "With our expanded network from Dublin to Europe we now offer connecting opportunities to all major business and tourism cities in Europe, and now with next year's flight from Washington to Madrid in conjunction with United Airlines our ability to serve more markets from the U.S. to both Ireland and Europe strengthens the Aer Lingus brand in North America," said Foley. However, not everyone is happy about the arrangement. United's pilot's union opposes the deal, citing the use of Aer Lingus' planes and employees as unfair. "The partnership is nothing less than the outsourcing of jobs to an international company," said Steve Wallach, head of the Air Line Pilots Association. "The United pilots are exploring every option to put an end to the company's blatant disregard and lack of loyalty to the United Airlines brand." Glenn Tilton, United Airlines' chairman, president and CEO said, "Our expanded agreement takes advantage of new opportunities under the US-EU Open Skies Agreement, benefiting our customers with additional competition and capacity in these markets. This partnership provides for a deeper commercial relationship with Aer Lingus, and capitalizes on the unique strengths of both our companies."

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