What went wrong with England’s air traffic control system, fans flock to the rugby world cup, and anyone for Rio? Eoghan Corry talks travel this month.
The appetite for travel continues to grow as the Rugby World Cup in France is well on the way to becoming the most travelled-to event in Irish sporting history. A summer of wildfires and an earthquake in Morocco have brought a new focus on consumer rights and cancellation policies. With rumours of Rio and confirmation of new US routes, will Dublin airport reach the 200 destination mark next year? And what happened to England’s Air Traffic Control system? Eoghan Corry discusses the latest travel talking points.
Next year’s fun?
Rio de Janeiro remains the prime candidate for a new summer 2024 route from Dublin, as confirmed by Kenny Jacobs of DAA at his latest press briefing. Half a dozen European routes could also be added to the schedule, bringing Dublin tantalisingly close to the 200 destination mark.
The most prestigious newcomers so far are Aer Lingus A330-200 routes 4 times weekly to Denver (May) and Minneapolis (April), with Minneapolis reverting to A321LR for winter, presuming the aircraft arrives on time.
In the shamrocky excitement it was scarcely noticed that Delta are also launching 5 times weekly to Minneapolis, which is a major hub for them, a fortnight after Aer Lingus restarts the route.
Summer 2024 full schedules have not yet been finalised or loaded, which is late in the day by pre pandemic standards. Ryanair options include their latest base in Tirana. Cork schedules are even more incomplete (wherefore art thou Pisa?).
Slim autumn leavings
Rodez and Nimes are the routes that are most consistently discounted in Ryanair’s flash sales for autumn. Discount routes are sparser than before and bargains to the sun are few and far between.
The appetite for travel to Faro and Malaga seems to know no end despite record frequencies on both routes. 51 flights a week (from all airlines) to Faro, compared with 46 pre pandemic, and 52 to Malaga, compared with 45 pre pandemic.
While international travel is still behind levels of 2019, Ireland is one of a handful of European countries almost back. Dublin airport’s figures for August were within a few hundred of the levels of 2019.
The world cup in France is well on the way to becoming the most travelled-to event in Irish sporting history, beating the 2016 Euro soccer championship.
The first, largely meaningless group matches saw airlift of 3,000 and 6,000 travel on day trips to Bordeaux and Nantes. Airlift for matches against South Africa and the quarter final will be about 20,000, including those on some charter flights which were still awaiting landing slots in Dublin at the time of writing. Would rugby fans even notice if they had to overnight in Paris?
What went wrong with England’s erratic ATC? This much we know. A flawed code, perhaps complicated further by a software update, was hiding in the system. What is mysteriously described as “a single piece of data in a flight plan” was “wrongly input to its system by an unnamed airline.” The terrible twain met.
England’s air traffic control system, not the most robust to start with, went down. Passengers found their flights either delayed horribly or cancelled, over 100 of them to and from Ireland, and the airlines lost €100m, according to Willie Walsh’s out-of-pocket calculator. What did we learn from the debacle?
- Aer Lingus are nimbler than Ryanair. By noon on Monday it was clear something big was happening and Aer Lingus had pulled five flights while Ryanair’s doomed departures remained on the board. Ryanair usually cancel earliest and giving their passengers clear, if unhappy, news. In the end 22 outbound and 37 outbound were cancelled, but
- The realisation is dawning on airlines that every ATC failure or strike is now regarded as normal and not a special event, if not for the immediate casualties, for the knock on cancellations which continued for days. Consumer’s charter EU261, twenty years old next year, is due a review. In the past year we saw that the death of a pilot was not enough to be treated as a “special circumstance” under the legislation.
- Flights to Amsterdam were the worst hit of the mainland destinations from Ireland. After previous sit downs in 2014 and 2009, the time has come to ensure English overflights can be handled by another ATC.
Go east young man.
Those heading east later this year are finding Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Turkish flights are full, expensive and often overbooked. So why not more flights? Prior to pandemic, Emirates were talking about three daily and Turkish were aspiring to four daily, albeit with a smaller aircraft.
Instead we still have fewer flights. Etihad, who flew eleven times a week, have reverted to daily. A third daily flight from Emirates or Qatar open another raft of transfer options for Irish people as well as (hopefully) stabilising the high long haul prices which are 40% above pre pandemic levels.
Third in the world
Ryanair passenger numbers for the twelve months to August were 177.4m, making Ireland’s finest the third largest airline in the world behind American and Delta, and slightly ahead of Southwest. Impressive as it sounds, this was regarded as a poor result in the airline’s headquarters in Swords.
Ryanair’s record load factor is 97%, achieved in the three summer months of 2017, 2018 and 2019. For summer 2023 the figure was just 96%, a figure considered unachievable before 2017 but now reached 23 times. August was a record month with 18.9m passengers, 26% ahead of 2019.
Some good news. Emerald Airlines and IALPA have reached agreement on trade union recognition, which is expected to be endorsed in a ballot by the pilots, after a summer with a strike that was not a strike.
Emerald experienced a worrying level of cancellations through the summer of 2023, losing two or three of their English flights each day, which is not ideal for an airline designed to connect with trans-Atlantic departures from Dublin.
Seattle down a frequency
The bit that is not in the Aer Lingus press release announcing Minneapolis and Denver, is that Seattle will lose a frequency and Orlando will change days of operation, suggesting Aer Lingus are using a single extra operating aircraft in the fleet.
Denver is a big hub for United, who have a codeshare with Aer Lingus, and Southwest, who do not. Mile-high indeed.
Feeling the heat.
A summer of wildfires and an earthquake in Morocco have brought new focus on consumer rights and cancellation policies. Tour operators, who responded generously to the fears of customers, and airlines, who did not, have long claimed they are not an insurer of last resort.
That is not obvious to those seeking refunds, especially those who found their insurance policies were not helpful either.
On the other side, those offering cancellations and dates changes found a low uptake. Just ask the TUI people in Rhodes who were upgraded from a two star to a four star resort during the wildfires, and who predictably declined the option of an early return flight home.
If you don’t have the day and a half you need to go through the Udvar-Hazy museum near Dulles, take a look at Mike Kelly’s model aircraft collection, now on view in Shannon airport. As you move from the check in desks to the departure gates you will find an intriguing and invaluable collection of 2,400 aircraft from airlines you may never have heard of.
Missed last months post? Catch it here: