Aer Lingus to possibly operate Manchester – US; what routes most likely?
Aer Lingus has reputedly applied for slots at Manchester Airport to operate to the USA from S21 with up to four based aircraft.
Of course, applying for slots doesn’t mean anything will happen, and Aer Lingus may simply be using this as part of a negotiation ploy to try to get more support from the Irish Government for its transatlantic operations from Shannon. However, it’s a timely opportunity to look at the development of the Manchester – US market and what prospects exist.
Manchester – US had just shy of two million seats in 2019, down from a high of nearly 2.2 million in 2017, OAG data shows.
The fast growth of Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic explains the big rise in 2016, the first year that US seats exceeded two million, along with the launch of Singapore Airlines to Houston via Manchester.
Virgin Atlantic had over one million US seats in 2019, or 53% of the total market, its highest volume to date. Its strong development was aided by the end of partner Delta.
The second-largest carrier, Thomas Cook, had 447,000 seats – down from a peak of 610,000, but still a 22% share. The airline’s end in 2019 resulted in a big capacity fall and large US network reduction for Manchester.
Between 2010 and 2020 and across carriers, nine US destinations have come and gone: Boston; Charlotte; Chicago; Las Vegas; Miami; Newark; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington Dulles. And a further two – JFK and Orlando – have seen big capacity cuts.
So the opportunity that Aer Lingus sees. But where makes most sense?
Likely and unlikely opportunities for Aer Lingus to the US
The following assumes a mixture of both based A321LRs and A330s.
Boston. Served between 2016 and 2019, Boston is a strong P2P market with almost 45,000 such passengers in 2019. With very strong fare per kilometre, as shown in the figure below, Boston is the closest market. And with Aer Lingus’ strong partnership with JetBlue, we think Boston is very likely to be served by the Irish carrier, especially with an A321LR.
Chicago. With over 40,000 P2P passengers in 2019 and the highest fare per kilometre, Chicago is a very likely route for Aer Lingus. However, the carrier had a 30% share of the market (over Dublin) with the clear risk of cannibalisation, unless the non-stop can be stimulated enough to offset that. Aer Lingus could also feed United, as it does from Dublin. Or American, with Aer Lingus just receiving provisional clearance to enter the transatlantic JV with American and BA. Chicago’s also within range of an A321LR.
Las Vegas. Served between 2011 and 2020, Las Vegas is now unserved. With 130,000 non-stop passengers last year, this is a very likely target for Aer Lingus.
Miami. The Florida airport, served between 2017 and 2019, is a wildcard for Aer Lingus – with strong P2P traffic of 42,000, rising to almost 50,000 if Fort Lauderdale is included. It could prove extra intriguing if full permission is given for Aer Lingus to enter the antitrust-immune transatlantic JV.
New York JFK: historically, JFK was Manchester’s second-largest market to the US after Orlando. In S17, Manchester – JFK had five airlines and six to New York when Newark is included. Come 2021, JFK will have just one airline (Virgin) and much lower capacity than in 2019, and Newark has ended (although it may return). This is a very obvious market for Aer Lingus with the A321LR, even before connecting traffic with JetBlue is considered.
Orlando. A very likely choice for Aer Lingus given the big capacity fall from Thomas Cook’s end, with the carrier having over 165,000 seats and a 28% share of this market. And despite non-stops with nearly half-a-million passengers, over 31,000 travelled indirectly between the two in 2019.
San Francisco. The California airport had 48,000 P2P passengers in 2019, with Thomas Cook operating the route between 2017 and 2019. Good fare performance too. Quite a likely market for Aer Lingus, and more so given its tie-up with Alaska Airlines.
Seattle. Operating between 2018 and 2019, Seattle had around 25,000 passengers in 2019 (non-stop and indirect). An unlikely choice, even with strong fare per kilometre for the long distance.
Washington Dulles. Served by United B757-200s between 2012 and 2016, Dulles had very strong fare performance from indirect traffic in 2019. But the P2P market is half the size of Boston, and when Dulles, National, and Baltimore are combined, it rises to 31,000. We think Dulles is an unlikely choice.