Today's launch of the new Dublin-Dubai service marks a significant step forward in Aer Lingus's growth and development. The first Eastern-bound and non-US long-haul route in the airline's history, this new service offers a direct link with one of the world's great commercial cities and an increasingly important tourist destination. It is good news for business, for leisure travel and for the airline and its staff.
But Dubai is more than a destination. It is one of the fastest-growing transfer hubs in the airline industry and opens up an array of new travel options for the travelling public. This direct service provides a highly-efficient stepping stone for those people who are travelling through the Middle East, Asia, Australia and southern Africa. Of course, as a direct consequence, it also increases the options for people seeking to travel from those regions to Ireland. On the commercial front, it will serve to enhance existing business linkages and boost our exporting potential, the lifeblood of our economy.
In a wider sense, today's announcement is a sign of things to come. An array of new route opportunities is now presenting itself to the national airline, not least in the US market place as we move towards the realisation of open skies. Some of those opportunities will be able to be exploited next year with the delivery of two new wide-body aircraft. But Aer Lingus has greater ambitions, ambitions to match new opportunities.
An Aer Lingus with financial muscle and commercial flexibility will realise these ambitions, meaning we can look forward to many new short and long-haul announcements over the months and years ahead. In the interests of the airline, its staff and customers not to mention the wider economic interests of this country, I want to see Aer Lingus being given the capital and the commercial freedom to realise those ambitions. That is why the Minister for Finance and I will be bringing proposals to Government to facilitate an investment transaction in the next number of weeks.
Let me take the opportunity today to reiterate that the State will not be making that investment. If the airline is to maximise its potential, it needs external capital and the commercial flexibility it brings. This will result in future expansion, allow Aer Lingus to strengthen its balance sheet and provide the muscle to compete in the volatile aviation industry. This is not ideologically-driven. It is a pragmatic, optimal response to ensure that a strong Aer Lingus seizes the opportunities which are now at hand. A strong Aer Lingus is good for customers, staff and the economy as a whole.
Finally, let me wish those travelling today bon voyage as they make this pioneering journey to the Middle East. I look forward to many similar launches over the years ahead as a privatised, well-capitalised Aer Lingus expands its global network and the world becomes an even smaller place for our outward-looking economy.