By Ray O’Hanlon
While the airline industry in general is still in the doldrums following Sept. 11, Continental Airlines is pointing to its service to Ireland out of Newark as one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy sky.
“Our U.S.-to-Ireland route is quite healthy compared to other routes,” Dave Messing, a spokesman for Houston-based Continental said this week.
Continental had been competing with Aer Lingus out of the New Jersey airport but was left alone in providing an Irish service after Aer Lingus shelved its Newark and Baltimore/D.C. services in the aftermath of the attack on America.
Continental, too, saw its Irish-bound passenger numbers fall in the months after the attack, but, according to Messing, the first signs of a turnaround were apparent by last winter.
“What helps Continental is that Newark is a hub for us, which means we can feed in passengers bound for Ireland from all over the country,” Messing said.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
“We are pleased with Newark, though we are obviously keeping our finger on the pulse of the market.”
With passenger numbers now climbing to summer highs, Continental recently changed the type of aircraft it is using to fly to both Dublin and Shannon.
Both Irish destinations are now being served by wide-bodied Boeing 767-400ER aircraft on daily non-stop services.
The 767s have 200 economy class seats and 35 of what Continental calls “BusinessFirst” seats.
The carrier was using smaller 183-seat Boeing 757s before the change to the larger aircraft.
According to Messing, the 767s will continue to fly to Shannon until the first week in September.
The larger aircraft will operate on the Dublin route until Oct. 26, he said.
The airline then plans to revert to the smaller 757s for the fall and winter months.
Continental has flown more than 600,000 passengers on what it calls its New York/Newark-to-Ireland routes since they were first started up in 1998.