If you listen to Aer Lingus, Heathrow will be on the decline within a few years as a major hub airport. The Irish flag carrier says that increasing numbers of passengers from Scotland and the north of England are using Dublin to make the hop over the US, deliberately avoiding Heathrow. Apparently the airline has seen the number of UK customers going to the US via Dublin rise by about 36% in a single year.
Being based at Dublin airport, they would that, so why is Dublin so much better? Well, UK passengers using it for transatlantic trips are able to go through US customs before they actually depart, meaning there is no queuing when they get off at the other end. The other benefit is that if you buy single tickets to Dublin (from England or Scotland) and then by your long-haul tickets in Ireland, then you only pay Air Passenger Duty on the short part of the flight.
Not to mention, Heathrow is running at a smidge under full capacity, so it’s a hellish place at any time of year that you might fancy going on holiday. Christoph Mueller, Aer Lingus chief exec, says: ‘The further north you live the more benefit you have going via Dublin to the US because you save so much time avoiding Heathrow.’ On the other hand, this could be wishful thinking by the boss of an airline that has had its fair share of troubles in recent years, and which would dearly love to see more passengers arriving at Dublin Airport.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the airline industry, everyone’s going crazy for the launch of British Airways’ first Airbus A380 ‘superjumbo’ plane. It carries more than 500 passengers – a Boeing 747 carries a ‘mere’ 400 – and looks to be the only way to increase passenger numbers while Heathrow operates at full capacity. We can understand why BA might be excited, but it’s worth noting that this plane has actually been around for a couple of years. Anyway, the first BA one touched down in Heathrow on Thursday morning, and marks the beginning of a big investment programme.
BA has been limping along with an ageing fleet (for its long-haul business, anyway), meaning that passengers can be left wanting with the in-cabin experience, and the actual cost-effectiveness of running the planes is tougher compared with the competition. To that end, BA will add 78 new wide-body planes to its fleet over the next decade, at a cost of $21.1bn. Wowzer. Some analysts are concerned that such a huge capital wall could threaten parent company IAG’s profitability in the future.
In the cheaper end of the market, EasyJet has announced a slight rise in passenger numbers. It carried 5,537,275 passengers in June, which was 1.9% higher than a year ago. Presumably that won’t stop founder and largest shareholder Stelios from continuing to ruffle boardroom feathers. And finally, Ryanair’s traffic also grew by 2%, up to 7.96 million passengers.
Looks like people have got a few extra quid for a cheap-and-cheerful European holiday this year.