Email correspondence between bosses at Aer Lingus and senior British officials suggests the airline is in advanced talks about launching direct flights to the US from the UK. Manchester has been mooted as a base for the airline, although no destinations in the States have yet been revealed.
Aer Lingus in advanced talks about UK to US direct flights
It has been revealed this week that Aer Lingus, the flag carrier of Ireland, has entered high-level discussions with senior British government officials regarding opening direct services from the UK to the US. As reported by the Independent.ie, an email was intercepted heading for Aer Lingus’ parent company IAG from Britain’s Department for Transport chief air services negotiator Mark Bosly confirming the talks.
In the email, Bosly was said to have thanked Aer Lingus for a ‘very interesting meeting’ regarding what he calls ‘Aer Lingus UK’. This suggests that the Irish airline could be looking to open a base somewhere in Britain in a bid to secure some of the lucrative transatlantic direct market.
Previous reports had mooted this move and had cited the potential of Manchester as a hub for the Irish airline. Aer Lingus already moves a lot of northern English passengers on the transatlantic market, routing them via Dublin with its regional connections. As a fast-growing airport with a large catchment area, Manchester could be the perfect location for the airline to begin direct services from the UK.
The Independent.ie reporting suggests that at least one meeting on this matter took place in September, involving senior IAG representatives as well as the management team of the airline.
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Would Aer Lingus get permission for the flights?
Reports suggest that, as part of the meeting, Aer Lingus presented a positive case for getting permission for direct US flights. It noted a paragraph in the 2018 aviation memorandum of understanding between the UK and the US, which it said would put it in a strong position to secure the traffic rights.
The paragraph, it said, implied that the US would not refuse permission for an airline majority-owned by EU entities to exercise traffic rights under a third country’s air transport agreement. In a nutshell, this means that, in theory, the United States should not refuse Aer Lingus traffic rights from the UK, as long as it was majority EU owned.
Bosly concurred that the agreement certainly suggested that Aer Lingus would be on good footing to secure permission. However, he recommended engaging with the US side early in the process and reminding it of its commitments. No clue was given as to what destinations might be served by Aer Lingus UK.
Competition on the routes
According to Skyscanner, there are six US destinations that will have a direct connection from Manchester by the IATA summer season next year (April onwards). These are New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, and Philadelphia.
Virgin Atlantic is the main competitor out of Manchester, using this focus city to launch direct flights to a number of destinations. However, American Airlines also has a connection to Philly, while Singapore Airlines runs a fifth freedom to Houston from the English city.
Overall, Manchester is hardly swamped with transatlantic services. Plenty of popular US cities do not have a connection, for example, Dallas, Denver, Portland, and Chicago. If Aer Lingus were to launch US direct services, it could choose to fill an unserved route to stimulate demand or could equally hop onto one of the existing routes, providing competition for the incumbent carriers.
Of course, all this depends on the transatlantic market being opened back up. Right now, many airlines are pinning their hopes on enhanced testing measures to give governments the security to allow international travel. These plans are likely a long way off but are an interesting development, nonetheless.