Aer Lingus invests in ambition to grow Dublin as transit hub

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Aer Lingus CEO Sean Doyle and a flight crew in front of a plane with the new livery.

Aer Lingus aims to make Dublin a bigger transit hub for travel between the U.S. and Europe as the carrier bulks up its transatlantic fleet over the next several years.

Ireland's national airline this month unveiled a new logo and livery design, its first such update in about two decades, but the carrier's planned changes are more than cosmetic. By 2023, it will increase its fleet serving North Atlantic routes from 17 to 30 aircraft, including the addition of three A330s and 14 A321LRs. It services 15 North American destinations and plans to add Minneapolis in July and Montreal in August.

Aer Lingus has "had huge changes in the organization" since International Airlines Group acquired it in 2015, director of marketing Dara McMahon said. The acquisition enabled such investments as lie-flat seats and food and beverage service, and it worked its way up to a four-star Skytrax rating in 2016.

The carrier has always had a healthy share of corporate business, vice president of global sales Bill Byrne said, particularly among small and midsize companies like law firms, venture capitalists and tech companies that have a longtime fondness for the Irish brand. "As a corporate airline, we've been less relevant on a network basis but extremely relevant in the Irish market," Byrne said. "We're trying to penetrate much better, and direct service is the key."

As service from Dublin increases, the airport holds one advantage over other European gateways: U.S. Customs Preclearance operations, which enable travelers to clear immigration and customs inspections before boarding the plane rather than upon arrival. Ireland's airports in Dublin and Shannon are the only European airports that currently have this capability; it's also available in several Canadian and Caribbean airports, as well as Abu Dhabi.

Investment from U.S. businesses into Ireland and vice versa also is on the rise, Byrne said. "[Dublin] is a destination business travelers want to go to, and companies like Google, Accenture and Facebook have European or international headquarters there," he said. "They can take advantage of a young population that's highly educated and speaks English."

In anticipation of the growth, Aer Lingus has done some investment on the sales side, including adding sales team hires in the U.S. and closer work with indirect partners like American Express Global Business Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel, he said. "Our corporate portfolio is growing at twice the rate that capacity is, but we have a long way to grow," Byrne said.

Source: Business Travel News

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