Aer Lingus’ new Dublin-Washington DC flight on August 6th was the first to operate under the new Open Skies agreement that facilitates granting of new routes between the EU and the United States. Although the pact will not be fully implemented until March of 2008, Aer Lingus has been granted rights for three new routes before the end of this year. Flights to Orlando and San Francisco will be launched in October, bringing the number of US destinations served by the airline to seven. The new flights will provide for 6,200 additional passengers each week on Ireland – US routes. The Irish government obtained the new air rights in advance of other EU airlines.
Dermot Mannion, Aer Lingus Chief Executive said, “The removal of constraints on Aer Lingus’ expansion into the US is hugely significant for both the airline and the country. Over 1 million North Americans visited Ireland in 2006 with a spend of 800 million euros and Tourism Ireland expects these numbers could grow to 1.6 million visitors with a spend of 1.26 billion euros over the next six years thanks to Open Skies.”
Remarking on the carrier‘s expansion plans, Mannion said, “Aer Lingus has already taken delivery of two new long haul aircraft this year – our first new long haul aircraft in six years – and will double its long haul fleet to fourteen by 2014 in an investment worth US$2.4 billion. Securing the capital necessary to fund Aer Lingus’ growth plans and take full advantage of Open Skies was a major factor in the decision to privatize Aer Lingus. We are forging ahead with our business plan and on delivering value for both customers and shareholders”.