Aer Lingus Grows Transatlantic Capacity and Adds Washington Link

Irish national carrier Aer Lingus is to increase capacity to the United States in summer 2015 with additional capacity to Boston, New York, Orlando and San Francisco and the reintroduction of direct flights to Washington’s Dulles International Airport. This planned growth will increase the number of seats offered by Aer Lingus during the 2015 summer season by 135,000 (12.5 per cent year on year growth) to 1.2 million seats, and is equivalent to a 14 per cent increase in ASK production.

The expansion will be made possible by the introduction of an additional Airbus A330-200 into the Aer Lingus fleet from May 2015 on a five year lease. This additional capacity will enable the carrier to resume summer links from Dublin to Washington Dulles from May 1, 2015 on a four times weekly basis and to boost its current Dublin – Orlando route from three to four times weekly and Dublin – San Francisco link from five times weekly to a daily schedule.

"Across our long-haul network we carried nearly a quarter more passengers compared to last year while increasing our load factor and revenue per seat. We target further profitable growth of our long-haul business into 2015. Our new Dublin to Washington service will be launched in May 2015 and services on existing transatlantic routes will be increased,” said Christoph Mueller, chief executive officer, Aer Lingus.

“This will provide even more connectivity for our passengers and strengthen Aer Lingus’ and Dublin’s position in traffic between Europe and North America,” he added at the formal launch of the new summer schedule alongside its Q3 2014 management statement.

The development of Dublin as a gateway between Europe and North America will see Aer Lingus operate 20 daily flights across the Atlantic next summer. "This combined with our extensive European network continues to deliver upon our commitment to connect Ireland to the World,” added Stephen Kavanagh, chief strategy and planning officer, Aer Lingus.

The Irish flag carrier previously served the Dublin – Washington market up until October 2009 and will now compete with United Airlines which introduced its own up to daily operation from June 2012. In our analysis, below, we look at annual passenger demand on the route and compare the traffic split on last year's United Airlines operation with Aer Lingus' last full year of flights in 2008. The data clealy shows the importance of connections in each carrier's home geographic market but also the sizeable local traffic on the city pair.

Data provided by Sabre

Aer Lingus says its overall long-haul capacity will increase by 18.4 per cent per week in the peak summer season. Alongside the A330 deployment the carrier will utilise a Boeing 757-200 from Air Contractors to launch a third daily between Dublin and New York between June and August 2015. The service’s 12 noon departure from New York represents the area’s earliest available departure to Europe.

The airline will also increase capacity on its Shannon – Boston route for twelve weeks during the same peak summer period, through the use of a Boeing 767 on the route instead of a 757-200, an approximate 20 per cent rise in capacity. Aer Lingus says the 767 will be acquired on an ACMI lease.

Latest Q3 results for 2014 from Aer Lingus show how well its transatlantic network is performing. Long-haul passenger revenue for the nine months to September 2014 increased by 25.5 per cent to €373.7 million (YTD September 2013: €297.8 million). In fact all year-to-date long-haul revenue metrics are ahead of the corresponding prior year period: yield per seat is up 7.1 per cent; passenger volumes are up 18.7 per cent and load factor is up 1.2 percentage points. The increase in load factor has been achieved notwithstanding a 20.9 per cent increase in the capacity deployed for the first nine months of 2013.

The introduction of the Washington link in 2015 and increased service on existing routes will add scope to the carrier’s network and increase the relevance of both Aer Lingus and the Dublin hub in connecting traffic between Europe and North America. The new service will offer connections from sixteen UK and continental European cities to Washington, with the US Capital also serving as a gateway to over thirty US domestic destinations.

“During next year’s summer peak, Aer Lingus will have 20 daily departures back and forth across the Atlantic to Boston, Chicago, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington DC, giving Dublin Airport customers a huge range of choice and flexibility,” said Vincent Harrison, managing director, Dublin Airport.

“Dublin was Europe’s seventh largest airport for transatlantic connections this summer and we expect to strengthen our position next summer with the additional capacity announced by Aer Lingus today and Ethiopian Airlines’ recent decision to launch a three times weekly Dublin-Los Angeles service next summer,” he added.

Last year, Dublin Airport welcomed a record 1.9 million transatlantic passengers, which was a 13 per cent increase on the previous 12 months. So far this year, transatlantic traffic is up a further 15 per cent.

Away from the US market, Aer Lingus may also boost capacity between Dublin and Toronto, Canada through the use of a larger A330-200 on four of its weekly flights (although Aer Lingus initially outlined plans to introduce the A330 on the Toronto route a subsequent update of the GDS has seen the route revert back to a daily 757 operation), new short-haul routes will be introduced to Agadir in Morocco and Nantes in France, while additional capacity will be introduced on existing services to short-haul destination from Dublin such as Faro, Palma and Paris.

Next year will see further changes to Aer Lingus’ short-haul flying following the termination of its third party contract to operate A320s for Virgin Atlantic under the Little Red brand between London Heathrow and Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester.

Virgin Atlantic will end the Little Red flights during summer 2015. The London Heathrow – Manchester route will close at the end of March 2015 and the links from the UK capital to Aberdeen and Edinburgh at the end of September 2015.

Aer Lingus says the phased closure of these routes during 2015 is “in line with contractual agreements” and it has already commenced the process of re-assessing the deployment of these aircraft assets. It says it is currently “exploring a number of new opportunities in the context of its short haul fleet”.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…