Despite doom-laden media headlines about route closures, cut-backs, empty flights, and cancellations, this summer should see 21 new ex-Ireland routes starting up from five airports by nine airlines, of which five will be newcomers to Ireland, reports Neil Steedman.
Dublin Airport, which is celebrating its 80th birthday this year, will have flights operated by 43 airlines to more than 190 destinations in 42 countries this summer.
New European routes will include three twice-weekly services commencing on 23/24 May by Aer Lingus – Alghero, Brindisi and Rhodes, and five by Ryanair – five times weekly to Marseille, thrice weekly to Palanga, twice weekly to Podgorica, and thrice weekly to Verona in March, as well as twice weekly to Menorca commencing in June. Ryanair’s service to Billund, introduced this winter, will also continue into the summer.
Eastern Airways has commenced its new six times weekly service from Dublin to Teesside International.
The new Moldavian start-up carrier HiSky is to launch a twice-weekly service on Wednesdays and Saturdays to Chisinau from 11 April – in partnership with the Romanian airline Cobrex Trans using Airbus A320-200 aircraft, pending receiving its own AOC.
EgyptAir will launch a new year-round, four times weekly service to Cairo on 5 June, which will be Ireland’s first scheduled air service to Egypt. Meanwhile, El Al will begin a non-stop, three-times weekly service to Tel Aviv on 26 May.
On transatlantic, United Airlines will commence a daily non-stop service to San Francisco on 6 June using a B787-8 Dreamliner.
As for the Far East, time will tell if Cathay Pacific’s service to Hong Kong and Hainan Airlines’ service to Beijing will return this summer, or if Juneyao Air will launch its new service via Helsinki to Shanghai – originally scheduled to start on 29 March but currently postponed.
Cork Airport will have 42 destinations served by eight airlines this summer – Aer Lingus, Aer Lingus Regional, Air France, Iberia Express, KLM Cityhopper, Ryanair, Swiss, and Volotea.
From 30 March, KLM Cityhopper will operate a new daily service to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport using Embraer 175 and Embraer 190 aircraft.
Ryanair introduced a twice-weekly service to Katowice this winter and this will continue through the summer. From 3 May until 21 October Ryanair will also operate its new twice-weekly service to Zadar.
Thirty destinations will be served with scheduled flights from Shannon Airport this summer by seven airlines – Aer Lingus, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Laudamotion, Lufthansa, Ryanair, and United Airlines.
New routes include two by Aer Lingus – four times weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays to Paris CDG from 29 March to 24 October, and three times weekly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Barcelona from 2 May to 24 October.
A third will be a twice weekly service on Wednesdays and Saturdays to Vienna from 1 April to 24 October by Ryanair Holding’s Austrian airline Laudamotion.
Ireland West Airport
This summer 13 scheduled destinations will be served by three airlines (Aer Lingus, Laudamotion, and Ryanair) from Ireland West Airport, including the new route to Palma de Mallorca by Laudamotion, operating twice weekly flights on Tuesdays and Fridays from 31 March.
In addition, flights to Cadiz are on offer to Cadiz in May with Paul Claffey Tours, while Joe Walsh Tours and Marian Pilgrimages have flights to Fatima, Lourdes and Medjugorje.
Ryanair will be adding a seventh destination to its flights from Kerry Airport on 29 March with a twice weekly service on Thursdays and Sundays to Manchester – joining Alicante, Berlin, Faro, Frankfurt-Hahn, London Luton, and London Stansted.
It will be no news to travel agents that airlines are being seriously affected by the continuing spread of the Covid-19 virus – grappling as agents are on a daily basis with airlines’ flight cancellations, governments’ restriction changes, and clients’ concerns, cancellations, rescheduling, etc.
IATA, the International Air Transport Association, has estimated that the epidemic could reduce passenger airlines’ revenues by up to US$113 billion this year. It has also called for the rules governing airport take-off and landing slots (airlines must fill at least 80% of their slots in any given season, or risk losing their allocation next time round) to be suspended due to the disruption to flight schedules caused by the Covid-19 epidemic.
Airports, however, have a different perspective. The Airports Council International has said that the cancellation of flights had led to lower airline landing and parking charges, a decline in passenger and security charges, and a drop in retail spending While being sympathetic with the airlines’ needs to avoid flying empty aircraft simply to retain airport slots, the Council said that it wanted an evidence based, market-by-market review rather than blanket permission to cut flights without the risk of losing slots.
ACI Europe’s initial assessment of the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the region’s airport operators is a loss of 67 million airport passengers in the first quarter of 2020, representing a 13.5% drop in airport passenger footfall compared to a business-as-usual scenario; an overall diminution of 187 million passengers for Europe’s airports in 2020, representing a decrease of 7.5% in a year that was predicted to see 2.3% passenger growth in a business-as-usual scenario; and
a loss of €1.320 million in Q1 revenues compared to a normal financial quarter, as a result of lower aeronautical revenues, lower commercial (non-aeronautical) revenues, and foregone revenues from ground handling and other services.
Some airlines have begun to relax their change/reissue fees for a limited period – albeit with some slower to do so than others and with Ryanair still holding out at the time of writing. The extent of airlines’ current problems has been highlighted by the decision by the Lufthansa Group airlines to reduce capacity by up to 50% in the coming weeks – and possibly to take its entire fleet of 14 A380 aircraft temporarily out of service in Frankfurt and Munich. Meanwhile, Norwegian, which had previously cancelled all its ex-Ireland routes, is preparing to cancel approximately 3,000 flights between mid-March and mid-June, representing approximately 15% of the total capacity for this period. The company has also put several other measures in place, including temporary layoffs of a significant share of its workforce.
Although the airline was already in financial difficulty last year, Covid-19 proved to be the last straw for Flybe, whose entire fleet was grounded on 5 March, bringing an end to its services from Dublin, Belfast City, Cork and Ireland West Airports to destinations across Britain, as well as Flybe services in Britain operated by Stobart Air. Time will tell if and, if so, how quickly those routes will be replaced.
However, one thing is certain: the overall situation could well have changed by the time you read this – and definitely by the time that the summer schedules get underway at the end of March!