By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – Reluctance by travelers to take transatlantic flights on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America has led to a sharp drop in bookings for Aer Lingus, a spokeswoman for the airline said.
“Bookings in general for September are very good because of new fare
incentives we have introduced.
“On September 10 and 12 transatlantic flights are very heavily booked. However, on September 11 bookings are substantially down,” she said.
The state carrier was badly hit in the wake of the attacks on the World
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Trade Center and the Pentagon last year and passenger numbers plummeted. Aer Lingus lost 139.9 million euros in a major turnaround from its profit of 71.6 million euros in 2000, according to the annual results.
It was forced to drop services to Newark and Washington and bring in a
survival plan as the airline faced bankruptcy.
Superstition or fear of a repeat anniversary attacks is believed to have resulted in advance bookings cutting the Aer Lingus load factors by about a third on September 11.
The use of hijacked commercial airliners as flying bombs to attack the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington led to the
death of more than 3,000 people and traumatized travelers worldwide.
The plunge in bookings led to the collapse of the Belgian state airline
Sabena and the Swiss flag carrier Swissair.
Aer Lingus is not the only company to be hit by anniversary worries. A
number of major European airlines are cutting flights as thousands of
passengers choose to remain on the ground for the day.
British Airways, Air France and SAS are all reported to be planning to
cut flights because of low advance bookings.
Other companies are keeping their schedules under review in the hope that bookings may pick up later this month.
From 27 October Aer Lingus plans to start four new routes linking Dublin with Prague, Vienna and Geneva and also serving Cork-Malaga.
These are in addition to five new routes already launched this year from Dublin to Malaga, Barcelona, Nice, Alicante and Faro.
“We are making progress,” said CEO Willie Walsh. “We are doing better than we had expected. While we continued to operate at an operating loss in the first six months (of 2002) our trading position is stronger.”