By Stephen McKinley
Continental Airlines says it has substantially increased sales on its route from Newark to Shannon and Dublin airports, having apparently picked up considerable trade after both Aer Lingus and Delta cancelled their Newark-Ireland routes.
In anticipation of increased business, the airline has added several new wide-bodied Boeing 757 aircraft to the route, and a spokesperson for the company said that the move “has paid off with increased customers and sales to Ireland.”
Both Delta and Aer Lingus shut down their Newark-Ireland routes after Sept. 11. In October, Aer Lingus laid off 2,500 of its 6,500 employees and cancelled a quarter of its flights, including services to Washington, D.C., and Newark. On that occasion, chief executive Larry Stanley said: “The losses we face are truly staggering. They exceed anything we ever anticipated in Aer Lingus and right now it is survival that is our challenge.”
In contrast, Continental appears to have acquired the Newark trade that is unlikely to return to Aer Lingus even if the route were to be reopened.
On behalf of the Irish American Travel Agents Association, President Neil O’Sullivan welcomed the news that Continental’s Newark-Ireland route was thriving, noting that he and colleagues had been dismayed when the other airlines cancelled the routes to Ireland in response to the declining economy and the devastating blow of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
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“A lot of my fellow agents were disappointed when Aer Lingus dropped Newark off their schedule,” O’Sullivan said, “but this is a good move for Continental.”
Continental Airlines offers a daily service from over 130 domestic U.S. cities via Newark directly to Dublin and Shannon.
“Many of my clients use Newark because it is a very handy airport,” added O’Sullivan, noting that it was usually more accessible from Manhattan than the city’s other airports.
Ewen MacDougall, Continental’s sales manager for Ireland, said, “We envisage that many passengers will also take advantage of our chauffeur-drive service and look forward to providing a complete business-class service right from their doorstep.”