Aer Lingus to ‘craic’ non-stop UK-US market – data showcases recent DUB-hub success
Aer Lingus has confirmed that it will commence its first non-Ireland originating transatlantic flights from Manchester on 29 July, adding daily service to New York JFK, and a five times weekly operation to Orlando (reducing to four times weekly in Winter). From 20 October, a three times weekly link to Bridgetown will be added, while Boston is planned to be launched in S22. Connections will be available via New York JFK and Boston to 50+ destinations thanks to the airline’s partnership with JetBlue Airways.
The Irish flag carrier has been very successful in recent years to develop its connecting traffic via Dublin between the UK and North America. In 2016 the carrier flew over 99,100 one-way passengers between the two nations via its Irish capital hub based on data from OAG Traffic Analyser, while in 2019 this number sat at over 155,000. This is an increase of 56.8% during the course of the four years before the COVID-19 pandemic took effect. The following table breaks down the development of Aer Lingus’ UK-US traffic into originating UK airport and year.
Between 2016 and 2019, Aer Lingus increased its Manchester-North America passenger numbers by 70.2% based on information from OAG Traffic Analyser data, growing from over 16,600 one-way passengers to 28,300. While this is very successful, when looking at detail, Manchester is only the fourth best UK originating airport for North American traffic growth with the carrier in recent years. Birmingham is Aer Lingus’ best performing UK airport for transatlantic traffic development, growing by over 129%, with Edinburgh second (78.2% growth between 2016 and 2019) and Bristol (70.7%) third. In terms of net growth, Manchester is second (11,600 additional one-way passengers in 2019 versus 2016) after Birmingham (12,200).
While the table is looking at just Aer Lingus’ own performance, Manchester Airport itself had the greater capacity to North America in 2019 than other UK regional airports, with it already being a hub for Virgin Atlantic Airways, while Thomas Cook Airlines served an array of routes before it collapsed in September of that year. “Pre-pandemic there were more than 5.5 million passengers who crossed the Atlantic each year via Manchester and so to be able to offer these services with a new carrier is great news,” commented Karen Smart, Managing Director of Manchester Airport.
Advantage of British Airways’ sales distribution
While the table above indicates that Birmingham has been the better UK-originating airport for Aer Lingus regarding passenger growth development in recent years, it should be noted that one serious advantage that the Manchester market has is that soon these new Aer Lingus flights will be for sale on fellow IAG carrier British Airways’ website, as well as British Airways Holidays. The UK flag carrier has a strong presence in Manchester, with the airline transporting 53,600 one-way passengers to North America from the airport via London Heathrow in 2019.
The top destination was New York JFK (6,500 one-way passengers), accounting for 12.2% of BA’s Manchester-North America traffic that year. Miami, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago O’Hare rounded off the top five North American connections in 2019. With Aer Lingus serving Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago O’Hare from Dublin, if the carrier makes a success on its initial routes from Manchester, these too could follow in the coming years. Combined with Aer Lingus, BA and the Irish flag carrier had 81,980 one-way passengers to the US in 2019.
Another reason for having BA advantage is due to Aer Lingus taking on Virgin Atlantic at Manchester, with it already serving New York JFK, Orlando and Bridgetown from Manchester. With the Richard Branson-founded operator having increased its seat capacity from Manchester to North America by 50% between 2016 and 2019, and with Thomas Cook now out of the market, IAG will not want to let one of its biggest transatlantic rivals from the UK take further gains from one of the UK’s largest markets to North America.
Boston currently better than JFK for Aer Lingus customers
The below table sets out more detail of Aer Lingus’ performance on the Manchester-North American market, with breakdown of one-way passengers by US destination, along with the average one-way.
Interestingly the airline’s top market in 2019 from Manchester was Chicago O’Hare, with over 6,300 one-way passengers. The market pair took a big rise in 2019, probably due to American Airlines ending its non-stop service in 2018. After the Windy City, it is Boston and New York JFK which round off the top three. The airline’s average one-way fare from Manchester to North America in 2018 was $376 USD. This dropped to $343 in 2019, however when you take into account that non-stop capacity between Manchester and North America decreased by 1.3% due to Thomas Cook’s collapse, this slight drop of Aer Lingus could be due to rescue fares it may have introduced to help stranded passengers return to the UK.