As Aer Lingus announces four long-haul routes from Manchester, we look at each market and the reason for them. The overall driver is the gap that came about following the end of Thomas Cook (and others) – New York went from six airlines to one – that has made Virgin Atlantic more dominant than ever. Aer Lingus is positioning itself for the post-coronavirus period.
Nearly five months after it was revealed that Aer Lingus had applied for slots at Manchester to operate across the Atlantic, it has revealed four routes: New York, Orlando, Barbados, and – starting in 2022 – Boston. Aer Lingus UK will operate all.
Why is Aer Lingus starting them?
Aer Lingus is attracted from Thomas Cook’s exit in 2019 (along with other cuts in recent years), which resulted in an enormous capacity reduction. Manchester to the destinations that Aer Lingus will begin had nearly 1.3 million seats in 2019, reduced to 400,000 this year. Of course, this hasn’t been helped by coronavirus, but it would be down greatly anyway.
Virgin Atlantic is now in a more dominant position than ever. And Aer Lingus – owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), which also owns British Airways – is positioning itself for the post-coronavirus period.
An important competitor for Aer Lingus will be its own services via Dublin. The Irish carrier had roughly a 20% share of the Manchester-US connecting market in 2019, analyzing booking data obtained via OAG Traffic Analyzer shows.
Orlando has historically been the largest US market from Manchester, and it was a very likely choice for Aer Lingus. It had nearly 600,000 non-stop seats in 2019, but Thomas Cook’s exit saw a loss of 165,000. Virgin Atlantic then became the sole operator, with the market ripe for a new entrant. (TUI will also switch from Orlando Sanford to Melbourne in 2022.)
Aer Lingus will begin Orlando on July 29th on a five-weekly basis using the A330-300, with the schedule as follows (it’ll reduce to four-weekly from October 30th):
- EI035: Manchester 11:00, Orlando 15:45
- EI034: Orlando 19:00, Manchester 08:35+1
New York JFK has historically been Manchester’s second-largest market to the US after Orlando. In 2017, Manchester-JFK had five airlines and six to New York as a whole if Newark is included, a year in which this city-pair had over half a million seats (528,000).
What a difference a few years make. In 2021, JFK has just one airline (Virgin Atlantic), as it probably would have even if coronavirus didn’t happen, while Newark is no longer served with no return in sight (although United Airlines might look at some point).
City-pair capacity is down by over 433,000 seats over pre-coronavirus 2019, making JFK a very logical market for Aer Lingus, even before connecting traffic over JFK with partner JetBlue is considered.
Manchester-JFK begins on July 29th on a once-daily basis with the A321LR:
- EI045: Manchester 12:05, JFK 15:25
- EI044: JFK 17:25, Manchester 05:50+1
Barbados has been a sizeable market from Manchester for years, with over 166,000 seats in 2019 when it was served by Thomas Cook, TUI, and Virgin Atlantic. Now it’s served by TUI and Virgin Atlantic. Barbados is a strong winter market, with average fares around a quarter higher than in summer, booking data shows.
Barbados begins on October 30th and will be three-weekly using the A330-300:
- EI031: Manchester 11:00, Barbados 16:35
- EI030: Bababdos 19:40, Manchester 08:10+1
Manchester-Boston was served between 2016 and 2019 by Thomas Cook (2016-2018) and Virgin Atlantic (2017-2019). And despite Virgin Atlantic’s non-stop summer service, in 2019 nearly 40,000 people connected indirectly on a point-to-point and round-trip basis, showing strong demand.
With Aer Lingus’ partnership with JetBlue, Boston seems an obvious addition with the A321, with its schedule to be announced at a later date.
Will you be using Aer Lingus across the Atlantic to Manchester? Comment below!