British Airways parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) announced that two new transatlantic destinations could be added to Aer Lingus as early as summer 2016 if their proposed bid for the airline is finalized.
The airline group released a statement saying,"By 2020, IAG believes that IAG and Aer Lingus could deliver up to 2.4 million more passengers, four additional destinations in North America and eight additional aircraft".
Tourism Ireland believes that this investment in transatlantic travel could be a major boost for Irish tourism from the US, which is already hitting record heights. In 2014, there were over one million US visitors to Ireland, spending over $1 billion while in the country. In total, there were 2.1 million transatlantic passengers, a 14 percent increase on 2013.
Already this year the number of US visitors to Ireland has risen by 7 percent. In fact, 10 percent of American travelers to Europe now travel to Ireland, according to Tourism Ireland.
This boost in US tourists comes from an increased number of seats flying between Ireland and the US. Increased capacity on flights and additional routes means that, in peak summer periods, there are now 47 transatlantic flights operating from Dublin airport per day.
CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons believes that any further increase in these routes can only be good for Irish tourism. “In my view, the retention of a separate Aer Lingus brand within the international IAG family gives us the best of both worlds – a strong, traditional, iconic brand supported by a great international network of one of the world’s leading airline groups," he states.
As of yet, IAG and Aer Lingus have not announced where these additional destinations may be, although, it is believed that the airline’s Los Angeles service may be restarted. A Texas flight has also been long mooted.
Efforts are already being made by Aer Lingus and Dublin Airport to secure Dublin’s status as a leading city in Europe for transatlantic travel. If IAG succeeds in completing a takeover of Aer Lingus, they believe that they will be able to commit to the development of Aer Lingus’s long-haul capacity thanks to the connectivity IAG affords with other carriers. The airline would also join IAG’s joint business agreement over the North Atlantic with American Airlines and Finnair.
There is a pending threat to Dublin Airport posed by the installation of pre-clearance facilities for US passengers at Manchester airport. The hope in Irish circles is that the IAG-Aer Lingus deal will have gone through and Dublin will have established itself as a hub for IAG (British Airways) before the US Customs and Border Protection facilities are fully established in the English city.
The US Department of Homeland Security announced that it would be a number of years before any other European city will have US CBP facilities installed, another encouraging note for Dublin airport.
Despite initial reluctance from to support IAG’s takeover of Aer Lingus, the government is now backing the sale of their 25.1 percent minority share in Aer Lingus to the airline group.
Irish Minister for Tourism Paschal Donohue said that the sale of Aer Lingus to IAG would be "the best means of securing and enhancing Ireland’s connectivity with the rest of the world."
Aer Lingus, chairman Colm Barrington also believes that the takeover would result in "an increase in jobs at Aer Lingus, in support activities and the tourism sector and, importantly, will strengthen connectivity to and from Ireland.”
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