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A price war in the skies over Newark?

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

With Continental Airlines poised to launch its scheduled passenger flights to Ireland out of Newark airport in New Jersey, the Houston, Texas-based carrier has already signaled that it intends to give Aer Lingus a flight for its money.

Continental’s service to Shannon and Dublin takes wings on June 15. Aer Lingus launched its full-scale service linking Newark and Ireland in March.

But the Irish carrier’s three-month headstart hit turbulence this week with Continental offering fares that could send a typical family of four to Ireland in late June for close to a thousand dollars less than Aer Lingus.

The savings are maximized if the destination is Dublin as opposed to Shannon.

Comparative prices for a return flight to Dublin out of Newark reveal that Aer Lingus is this week charging $2,722 while, Continental’s price for two adults and two children is $1,764.

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Ironically, the sharp price differential seems to have been spurred by an Aer Lingus decision to cut adult return fares to Shannon by $200 for a limited period.

“Continental responded by cutting fares to both Shannon and Dublin. Aer Lingus did not apply its cut to Dublin,” a travel industry source told the Echo.

While the initial price cuts were aimed at adult passengers, the real savings for Ireland-bound passengers are to be found in children’s fares.

A comparison drawn this week between both airlines for a return flight from Newark to Dublin revealed that while Aer Lingus was charging an under 12 price of $563, Continental was charging $284 roundtrip.

Another peculiar twist to the tale is that in a reflection of the oft- confusing picture faced by consumers when its comes to airline ticket prices, neither Aer Lingus nor Continental seemed to be aware of the price difference between them when first contacted by the Echo.

Both Aer Lingus and Continental have seen their fortunes rebound in recent years after protracted problems.

Aer Lingus is expecting to fly a million passengers across the Atlantic this year for the first time in its history. Five years ago, the carrier faced bankruptcy.

Continental, too, has had its financial woes in recent years and was in fact a former partner – together with defunct Eastern Airlines – with Aer Lingus in a no longer operational frequent flyer program.

When the Echo first reported last October that Continental was planning to fly to Ireland out of Newark, a spokeswoman indicated that the U.S. carrier saw itself as entering a genuinely competitive situation with the Irish airline.

The same view was reflected several months later by Aer Lingus executive vice president for North America, Jack Foley.

“We’ll be competing with a very big airline but we have a couple of arrows in our quiver,” Foley said in late January.

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