New routes, new Dublin Airport CEO and a boost for Tourism Ireland in September – is travel back? Eoghan Corry talks travel this month.
This month we saw new routes announced from Dublin, Shannon and Ireland West Airport, as well as a new low cost carrier announce trans-Atlantic flights from Belfast. Getting to the sun this Christmas is not cheap, and neither will car hire be in 2023. Tourism Ireland reported 900k international visitors during September, Dublin airport gets a new CEO and Aer Lingus has some thinking to do. All this and more when Eoghan Corry talks travel this month.
Merrily on high, VERY high.
This year’s Christmas flight prices have taken off to somewhere higher than Santa’s sleigh flight path trajectory. The Canary Islands, which (let’s admit it) is our ONLY sun-sure winter option that does not involve flying for longer than your average pre teen can manage (I hear you, fans of Agadir, but we are talking numbers here), turned very pricey for Christmas week, thanks to a combination of enhanced demand and lower seat availability.
A travel agent sent a family to Punta Cana for Christmas rather than Lanzarote because the price was lower. Yes, THAT bad.
The ghost of Christmas Past.
Is the arrival of Omicron this time last year still spooking the aviation industry? Ryanair announced a summer schedule with great aplomb, later than we were used to before Covid came to unsettle our nerves, but it looks a little incomplete compared with what we were used to in the good old days BC (Before Covid).
Greek routes were then added piecemeal. Shannon got Naples and Porto, each two weekly, out of nowhere. Are there more to come?
Wheels and roundabouts of misfortune.
The rental car crisis of 2022 abated quite rapidly when the schools returned in September, but what of 2023? All indications are that car hire is still tricky and the big fleet buy-ins of January are not even possible in the current market conditions. Try to hire a car in Malaga in July and you are paying 40pc more than pre-pandemic levels.
Aer Lingus have some thinking to do.
It will soon be squeaky bum time for the 2023 summer schedules. We are told more negotiations are afoot by both of our main airlines, but, as it stands, the slanty shamrock has effectively withdrawn from combat on short haul for next summer, with just 20 routes, compared with their impressive trans-Atlantic portfolio of 16 routes. Of course, more announcements are due in the coming weeks in both directions when fleet availability is sorted out.
That raises questions for both Aer Lingus and its hub airport Dublin, which will, if the trans-Atlantic model that has served the shamrock so well continues to grow, become the self-connecting capital of Europe. That means retrieve your bag and check it in again. Which leads us back to the baggage hall, where all separation stories begin, a sort of antidote to Zhivago’s in the old days (ask your grandad).
Inbox for Dublin Airport’s new CEO.
Former Ryanair executives are popping up in the oddest places, the latest installation is Kenny Jacobs as CEO of Dublin Airport authority. It does not always end well: as with Michael Cawley at Failte Ireland and Peter Bellew at Easyjet. Expect Kenny’s relations with his former boss to go through some testing times.
There has been some media concert about the offloading of summer staff in recent weeks, but Kenny’s concerns, like his (unfairly) much maligned predecessor only begin the week after St Patrick’s day, when there are bags to load and airbridges to wheel into place. That gives him a fair winter, hopefully without mishaps, to think about things. If anything goes wrong, expect that abiding image of him in the toilet cubicle to resurface on social media.
The big announcement at World Travel market was the return of Dublin to Tel Aviv direct, two weekly from El Al Israel Airlines from March 16 increasing to three weekly in on April 18, thus squaring off one of the most obvious major missing destinations out of Ireland since Buck Whalley went to play handball against the wall of Jerusalem (another nightclub reference, ask your dad).
Flights take off from Dublin 21.30 and arrive 05.00. The service should be safe. Ryanair, who operate 25 routes to and from Tel Aviv, shy away from sector length of more than two hours.
Belfast the new Keflavik?
Is there no escaping Andrew Pyne? When last we met him, he was heading up the Chinese/Australian owned Cobalt, a wannabe quasi-national carrier for Cyprus that failed as spectacularly as Air Cyprus had done a few years previously.
Previously, he was involved with Avianova, the Russian low cost carrier that operated an all Irish fleet and perished under pressure from S7 in 2011 and Wow. Which gives us a hint of what we might expect from Ireland’s latest start up, Fly Atlantic, a trans-Atlantic operation fed by flights from the neighbouring island under an English CAA licence.
Start-ups have a tough time here, with Easyjet already installed in Belfast, Ryanair operating 100 routes from Dublin and Aer Lingus offering 16 trans-Atlantic and the lowest unit costs of any airline engaged in the ferociously competitive trans-Atlantic market. Delta are also looking at restarting the Minneapolis route developed by Aer Lingus.
For a period in 2016 Iceland looked like it was going to be the entry point for cheap one-stop USA flights. Turning Belfast into Keflavik is going to take deep pockets and a lot of luck, as well as pluck, with no pre clearance and APD, although it is in abeyance, not having gone away (you know).
Is travel back?
Those that love to speculate whether travel is back have had a good month. World Travel Market, declared in its own eyes the biggest travel fair in the world, a reasonably safe claim while ITB Berlin is in abeyance, was a lively event with lots of countries exhibiting their wares (we stopped by for a chat with Iraq).
The Irish stand reported brisk trade, not least because the stand was confined to 40 last year and had 100 tourism partners this year. The data is hopeful too. Tourism Ireland reported 900k international visitors during September. This was 7pc behind the same month in 2019, but an improvement on the 19pc lag in the year to date.
Dublin airport’s figures are also running 10pc behind 2019 levels, much of the slippage on trunk routes such as London. Dublin airport’s slots applications for next year suggest 30.1m seats. This sounds hopeful until you consider that slots do not always translate into passengers, of which there were 32.9m in the year before the pandemic.
Internationally, only Greece is reporting more airline passengers than 2019. Numbers next year are unlikely to pass the levels we passed back in 2017. No. Travel is NOT back.
New for winter.
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Dublin Airport’s new routes for winter, a reminder because there are some surprises amongst the seven:
Asturias, Castellon, Genoa and Klagenfurt are operating twice weekly with Ryanair. Ryanair is also flying thrice weekly to Rovaniemi until March – charter flights also operate this route pre-Christmas.
Emerald Airlines are offering daily flights to Southampton and Aberdeen, to add to the existing flights with Eastern and Logan air respectively.
Missed last month’s post? Eoghan Corry talks travel here:
Read: Eoghan Corry talks travel – October 2022