The Internet has been gradually taking over from travel agents as the most popular method to book airline tickets. The new Aer Lingus site makes it more convenient for customers based in the U.S. to see prices displayed in U.S. dollars and to book trips that begin from American airports. The content will also be customized to feature special deals on transatlantic flights.
Up to now, anyone who logged on to www.aerlingus.com, irrespective of where in the world they were, would find themselves on the airline’s Irish homepage where prices are displayed in Euro and the default assumption is that all trips begin in Ireland.
“Basically, this means that customers in North America will get more pertinent content,” Aer Lingus’ advertising manager for North America, Rosemarie Curran, told the Echo.
According to the airline, the enhanced website will also enable travelers to find beneficial deals on hotels and car rentals. Curran noted that this would make the website “a one-stop shop for an entire vacation”. Aer Lingus also asserted that “when making a booking or changing a booking from the U.S. on aerlingus.com, you will save $30 versus booking over the phone or via any other travel provider.”
The concept of improving the U.S. website has been around for some time, according to Curran, but the airline “had to wait for the technology to catch up.”
The website changes happen at a time when the Irish airline is finding itself under pressure on some of its U.S. routes. American Airlines, the world’s biggest airline, has just announced that it plans to upgrade its service to and from Ireland early next year.
American, which currently offers a daily service between Chicago and Dublin, has indicated that it will introduce flat beds for business class travelers in 2006. (The frequency of the American Airlines flights between Chicago and Dublin will fall back to five-days-per-week during the winter).
According to a report in the Irish Times, American is also intending to upgrade its in-flight entertainment system.
Aer Lingus’ new chief executive, Dermot Mannion, has made it clear that he believes future growth at the airline depends upon boosting long-haul business. However, in the handful of interviews he has given since taking over as CEO earlier this month, Mannion has tended to focus on the desirability of introducing new long-haul routes, possibly including destinations in the Far East and Australia.
Mannion came to Aer Lingus from the Dubai-based Emirates airline. He recently drew on his experiences with Emirates to suggest that success in the long-haul market is not just about offering special features:
“Emirates doesn’t actually have flat beds and it’s done pretty well without them,” Mannion said. “My own personal view is that in-flight entertainment systems have become too complicated.”
Mannion also noted that Aer Lingus is currently hamstrung by the fact that its long-haul fleet is older than that of some of its competitors. An aging fleet in general is one of the problems for the Irish airline — one of the rationales provided for the recent decision to part-privatize Aer Lingus was the need to raise capital for new aircraft — but Mannion has pointed out that this situation has a knock-on effect on long-haul plans:
“Once we make a firm decision on our fleet, we will refurbish our long-haul aircraft,” he told the Irish Times recently. “We have got to bring them up to the standard of our competitors, and there is a three-to-four-year period in the middle when you are waiting on the new aircraft to come into commission,” he said.
The importance of long-haul business to Aer Lingus’ general health is not in doubt. Despite the fact that long-haul travelers account for only 20 percent of the airline’s total passenger numbers, they represent almost 40 percent of its passenger revenues.