Stephen Kavanagh, CEO of Aer Lingus, speaks at the 2016 International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit in Dublin, Ireland June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne Image Credit: Reuters

Dublin: Ireland’s Aer Lingus and Qatar Airways are in negotiations to start direct flights between Dublin and Doha, the two airline’s respective hubs, according to Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh.

The Irish executive’s comments come just three weeks after Qatar Airways announced it had increased its stake in Aer Lingus parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) to 15.1 per cent, up from around 12 per cent.

“We will be looking at connecting to the Qatar hub either on our metal (planes) or on Qatar metal,” Kavanagh said on Wednesday in Dublin on the eve of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meet in the Irish capital this week. “That is a natural way of exploiting the opportunities that both partners can bring,” he said.

Qatar Airways did not immediately respond to a request for comment but the Doha-based airline has explored closer relationships with IAG since buying into the company in early 2015. Qatar Airways and IAG subsidiary British Airways have a code-share deal; they have explored joint procurement opportunities and both airlines are members of the one-world, one of the world’s largest airline alliances.

Aer Lingus, which is considering joining Oneworld, was the latest carrier to join IAG when it bought out Aer Lingus shareholders in September 2015, which included Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways.

Etihad had struggled to convince Aer Lingus to fly to its hub with the Irish carrier instead focusing on transatlantic routes to the United States. James Hogan, the president and chief executive of Etihad Aviation Group (EAG), Etihad Airways’ parent company, said on Tuesday it was “a good investment” following the share last year.

Kavanagh said Qatar Airways’ network would help Aer Lingus compete with Middle East carriers Emirates and Etihad who both fly to Dublin from their Gulf hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“Now that we have not just a shareholder but also a partner with a competitive network in that regard I think its only a matter of time,” he said.