Tourism Ireland, Aer Lingus offer discounts

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NEW YORK -- Tourism Ireland and Aer Lingus teamed to spur U.S. departures to Ireland with new spring and summer discount airfare and savings promotions.

The "1,000 Welcomes" savings program comprises hundreds of discount offers available from more than 400 Irish travel companies through Aug. 30 for U.S. travelers who fly Aer Lingus.

Perks range from car-rental upgrades to free extended hotel stays and spa treatments.

The partners include hotels, b&b's, car-rental agencies, museums, parks, attractions, golf clubs, spas, restaurants and retailers in eight Irish regions.

In tandem, Aer Lingus will launch a "Welcome Fare" campaign, with fares from the East Coast starting at $149 one way for spring travel and $199 in summer.

The sale fares are available from Baltimore/Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York; pricing represents a savings of 35% over 2002 rates, according to Aer Lingus.

The new fares are bookable at www.aerlingus.com; however, travel agent and telephone bookings at (800) IRISH AIR will cost travelers an extra $10 each way.

But there are perks for travel agents, too.

For every 10 tickets booked through April 30, retailers can earn either $20 per ticket, one economy ticket for every 10 tickets sold, or one business-class ticket for every 20 tickets sold; the choice is theirs.

The carrier also eliminated some restrictions, including Saturday-night and minimum-stay requirements, as well as change fees.

The program launches April 6 with a consumer media campaign; Tourism Ireland and Aer Lingus also distribute a special "1,000 Welcomes Passport" and savings guides that will be downloadable from the airline Web site.

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