The Aer Lingus brand will return to Leeds Bradford International Airport this winter after the carrier’s franchise partner Stobart Air confirmed it will introduce a double daily flight from Dublin under the Aer Lingus Regional brand.
The flights, scheduled to be operated using new ATR 72-600 equipment, will be the first into the Yorkshire airport under the brand of the Republic of Ireland flag carrier for 14 years and will offer an alternative flight option to the Irish capital. The Leeds Bradford – Dublin route is already flown by Irish budget carrier Ryanair with a double daily offering using larger 189-seat Boeing 737-800s.
The new Aer Lingus Regional operation will launch on October 23, 2014 and will be flown with 13 weekly services with two flights every day except Saturday when there will be just a single rotation. The carrier expects to carry up to 70,000 customers annually on the new route with a schedule designed to cater for day return travellers and will offer a valuable new transatlantic connection opportunity to the Aer Lingus long-haul network via Dublin’s new Terminal 2, which houses the unique US Customs and Border Pre Clearance facility.
Passengers flying to Dublin will be able to connect to Aer Lingus’ mainline transatlantic services to New York, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, San Franciso and Toronto. Dublin Airport offers US-bound passengers immigration and customs preclearance services before their onward journey to the US which means that passengers are treated as domestic passengers on arrival in the US and so avoid long delays often associated with security checks. In Europe, only Dublin and Shannon airports offer this service.
Aer Lingus has successfully re-established links to a number of UK points under the Aer Lingus Regional operation with the utilisation of smaller regional turboprops a more efficient and better capacity fit for these markets than its larger mainline jets.
“Today’s announcement is part of the growth of our airline and reflects the ongoing success of our franchise partnership with Aer Lingus,” said Julian Carr, managing director, Stobart Air. “We are delighted to return to Leeds Bradford to launch this route to Dublin. We hope this service will continue to facilitate the long established Irish community which has thrived near the city centre of Leeds for nearly 200 years.”
Speaking to The HUB after announcing the new route, Carr confirmed ambitions to grow the route to a three times daily weekday schedule as has been the case with the new Dublin – Newcastle route it launched last year. “Leeds Bradford was a logical step for us as we grow the UK network for Aer Lingus Regional and there may be one or two further parts of the country that we don’t currently touch from Ireland for further growth. However, our main focus moving forward will be on frequency and growing our current operations.”
According to Carr, the business friendly schedule will support the developing Leeds and Bradford conurbations enhancing trade with the Republic of Ireland through the availability of day return services. “I know the Yorkshire market well and the introduction of a reputable business offering to Ireland and onward to North America fits with the needs of the market,” he said.
The Leeds City region is the largest metropolitan region outside London with a population of three million people. The city is the UK’s 3rd largest city and home to the largest financial, legal and professional services cluster outside of London/SE, alongside the well-established manufacturing and food and drink sectors and the fast growing healthcare and digital industries.
Meanwhile, for business Dublin is home to some of the world’s most reputable multinationals such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, EMC and IBM, while leisure passengers will be able to use the route to access Ireland’s tourism and cultural capital.
For Leeds Bradford this provides an alternate one-stop offering to North America and will complement its existing London transfer option introduced when British Airways resumed domestic links to the Yorkshire airport. “The US is the biggest trading partner for Yorkshire so we expect the new Aer Lingus Regional service to complement our existing offering,” Tony Hallwood aviation development director, Leeds Bradford International Airport told The HUB following the route announcement.
According to MIDT data, an estimated 18,000 O&D passengers flew between Leeds Bradford and North America in 2013, a figure that rises to a “big six figure sum” when you also include leakage from its catchment via ground transport to Manchester and London, said Hallwood. “We now have another offering to enable passengers to fly locally from Yorkshire and our customer service surveys have shown that our market are happy to use a one-stop offering providing it its competitive and offers convenience, something the pre-clearance in Dublin certainly offers,” he added.
In our analysis, below, we look in greater detail at passenger demand between Leeds Bradford and Dublin using official data from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). After peaking in 2006 when Ryanair offered an additional third rotation on the route, numbers have stabilised around the 180,000 annual passengers. While capacity has remained relatively unchanged over the past four years, traffic has grown on a year-by-year basis since the start of the decade.