The result of the absence of the plane has been disruption to scheduled services, particularly out of Boston and on the Shannon route out of Kennedy in New York.
It could be next week before services across the Atlantic get back to normal, an Aer Lingus spokesman said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Aer Lingus has indicated that the carrier’s mothballed service out of Baltimore-Washington, D.C., airport is not likely to be revived over the coming summer.
Aer Lingus currently operates seven A330s out of four U.S. airports: Kennedy, Boston’s Logan, Chicago’s O’Hare and Los Angeles. All are needed to keep the trans-Atlantic schedule fully operational. The carrier does not have a spare aircraft in the event of one plane being taken out of service.
Over the last couple of weeks, the absence of one Airbus has resulted in some Aer Lingus passengers out of Boston and New York being flown across the Atlantic on leased aircraft. The leased planes, which amount to a significant expense at every turn for the Irish carrier, have come from American Trans Air, North American Airlines and Air Comet Plus. In addition, Aer Lingus passengers have also been flown on other scheduled carriers, including American Airlines, British Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Air France and Lufthansa.
The fallout from the disruption to normal services has been delays and diversions affecting hundreds of passengers. Many have been flown to Ireland via British and continental European cities.
The stricken Airbus was taken off the line for routine maintenance but an additional problem, described as a “fuel-related issue,” was discovered by maintenance staff. The result has been the extended grounding of the aircraft.
Brian Murphy, Aer Lingus vice president for sales and marketing in North America, said that the airline regretted the inconvenience and delays experienced by some passengers.
“This is not the branding that customers expect,” Murphy said with regard to the leased aircraft and use of other airlines.
Murphy said he believed that Aer Lingus customers would respect the fact that the airline was placing safety issues above all others.
The airline, he said, had to take into account total passenger loads out of different airports when it came to leasing substitute aircraft. The intention was to confine disruption to a minimum number of passengers, he said.
The latest disruption to normal service on the Atlantic comes only a few months after a similar situation in which an airbus was pulled from the line for extended service.
The plane was damaged after a freak wind caused a collision between two Aer Lingus A330s at Dublin Airport on the New Year’s weekend. The gust pushed the nose of one Airbus into the wing of another.
Damage sustained by both aircraft resulted in cancellations out of both Dublin and Shannon airports and the loss of return-flight services out of New York, Boston and Chicago.
One of the damaged A330s made a quick return to service, the other did not. As has been the case again in recent weeks, Aer Lingus spent most of January leasing substitute planes and rerouting passengers with other airlines.
Pressure to update fleet
The A330 Airbus has been in service with Aer Lingus for just over a decade, having replaced the carrier’s Boeing 747 jumbo jets.
With pressures growing to privatize Aer Lingus, much has been said in recent months of the need to modernize the carrier’s fleet and expand it with a view to serving more U.S. cities under an expected new bilateral air treaty between Ireland and the U.S.
According to Murphy, there is no question over the viability of the current Airbus fleet.
Pressure to update the fleet, he said, was more to do with services that had become standard on board aircraft in more recent years such as reclining seats in premier class.
That pressure is certain to continue, but a quick decision on privatizing Aer Lingus appeared remote this week.
Irish government decisions on key aviation policy issues were being “further delayed,” the Irish Independent reported.
Three main issues are up in the air: the status of Aer Lingus, the future role of Shannon airport in the context of an “open skies” bilateral, and a proposed second passenger terminal at Dublin airport.
With regard to both the new terminal and the privatization of the state-owned Aer Lingus, it is known that some Irish government ministers from the ranks of Fianna F_il are wary of passing one or both into private hands.
Ministers in the Progressive Democrats, the minority partner in the coalition government, are more firmly in favor of privatizing both the new Dublin terminal and Aer Lingus.
Meanwhile, Murphy confirmed that a resumed service to Ireland out of Baltimore-Washington, D.C., airport was “unlikely,” though Aer Lingus was not ruling out future services from other airports in the mid-Atlantic region.
There has been speculation that Aer Lingus would interested in serving Philadelphia in the context of a new bilateral treaty, while Washington Dulles is also a possibility.