Mixing oil, politics and business with Aer Lingus…

As Brian has previously noted, it sounded great at the time (well, to most vaguely northern ears, at least), but it seems that things are going sour for Aer Lingus and Belfast International Airport. P O’Neill comments on an interview in the FT with Aer Lingus CEO Dermot Mannion, who, presumably under the extreme pressure of the oil crisis is now developing a set of nicely cold feet. O’Neill’s take:

At the time that Belfast was announced, Aer Lingus said it had selected it as an alternative to a base in England (Birmingham was mentioned), and part of the logic was to run Belfast with a lower cost base than Dublin. Now all of sudden Aer Lingus is again looking at non-Irish bases and still in search of lower costs. And their response to Ryanair’s calculations that they are not filling seats out of Belfast is to claim that even Ryanair can’t make money on its flights out of there! To state the obvious, if Ryanair has half the cost per bum-in-seat of Aer Lingus (as the article says), how does EI expect to make money operating from Belfast?

Indeed. And it seems one of the Chuckle Brothers’ first rabbit-form-a-hat tricks is in trouble already within nine months of beginning operations. Favourable demographic or no favorable demographic… the market is on the squeeze…

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  • frustrated democrat

    I think it is inevitable that we will see a cutback on flights from NI airports as there have too many seats in a declining market. This is also true of all airports I just think that the old model is not sustainable any longer and Easyjet/Ryan air will have to rethink what they do and maybe do a lot more stops without deplaning e.g. Belfast/Dublin/Europe or Belfast/Leeds/Europe if they can get the airport costs and turnarounds sorted out.

  • lorraine

    good to see P.O’Neil has got another job!

  • Given that they’re primarily aiming at the business market for the Heathrow route, the fact that ‘Belfast’ International Airport is nowhere near Belfast put them at a distinct disadvantage from the outset compared with the likes of BMI, who fly from the city airport.

    Given the option of taking a flight from an airport ten minutes from the city centre and a flight from an airport an hour from the city centre (adding two hours to the working day per return flight to London), it’s obvious that most businesses would opt for the former.

    You also have to factor-in the cost of travelling to the international airport compared with getting to the city airport, plus the fact that a disproportionately large number of staff at the International are ignorant fools, and you can further see why Aer Lingus is experiencing difficulties on the Heathrow route.

    The fact is that using the International is only an option if there are no better alternatives.

  • PeaceandJustice

    If you compare the time it takes to get from Heathrow to the centre of London, the International airport is in an acceptable location. You also need to factor in the noise pollution for the residents near the City. But transport to the International is expensive – the Airport Express bus costs £7 single.

    Meanwhile, Ryanair has started to axe flights with the Londonderry-Bristol route ending 1 October.

  • P&J;-

    The journey from Heathrow into the centre of London will still be faced by travellers regardless of which Belfast airport they use- using the International just adds to the overall journey time.

    As for the issue of noise pollution- it may be a problem for residents in south and east Belfast, but it will have no bearing on the choice businesses and personal travellers make when it comes to booking flights- ultimately it comes down to cost and convenience for them.

  • PeaceandJustice

    To El Matador – decisions need to be made about the continuing expansion of the City airport regarding the impact on the local population and the general environment.

    Ryanair’s choice of the City means that for planes like the 737-800, they are restricted to 140 of the possible 189 seats for departures (weight restrictions). So the International is a good base for Aer Lingus.

  • If Mannion has any sense he’ll start operating some sun charters to mop up Futura’s business rather than opening yet another Eastern Europe stag route.

  • Llamedos

    The facilities Aer Lingus enjoy At Heathrow- it is just like an Andersen shelter and at 67 with heart trouble walking all that way to the badly signposted gate is near purgatory. The only hope is that British Airways will buy Aer Lingus and that we the public will get more accessible gates. Ferrovia do not give a fig for customers.