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Marches off, but Americans still plan to travel

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Despite the cancellation of major St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Ireland, including the marches in Dublin and Cork, few Americans are scrapping their plans to visit Ireland over the St. Patrick’s holiday period.

Aer Lingus said Tuesday that it had received few cancellations despite the uncertainty spawned by the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Northern Ireland and Britain, and the strict travel restrictions imposed by authorities in the Republic in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease.

The apparent determination of individuals, groups, and in some cases bands and other marching groups to make the trip to Ireland comes despite the fact that Aer Lingus was offering full refunds as a result of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

"It seems that people planning to travel were facing stiff penalties on the ground and from hotels, so they are sticking with their plans," Brian Murphy, Aer Lingus’ vice president for sales and marketing, told the Echo.

Aer Lingus, as with the other main carriers serving Ireland, Delta and Continental, was just beginning to deal with the problems posed by foot-and-mouth when the weather threw in its 10 percent.

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Predictions of a huge winter storm forced cancellation of a number of U.S.-bound flights from Ireland Monday to airports such as Kennedy in New York and Boston’s Logan Airport.

All Aer Lingus flights to and from Boston and New York were scrubbed, although the carrier’s service in and out of Baltimore/Washington was unaffected.

Delta Airlines cancelled its Monday evening flight to Ireland out of Kennedy.

Before the storm, Aer Lingus was scrambling to deal with the rising travel uncertainties caused by the foot-and-mouth crisis and the scrapping of major upcoming events in Ireland, including the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

"We’re following the Irish government’s recommendations, making customers aware of the situation," Murphy said.

Aer Lingus customers who still want to change travel plans due to the disease outbreak are being offered alternative future flights or full refunds.

The airline is also advising passengers on flights about precautions they should take to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth.

"We have been identifying groups that were planning to travel for the Dublin and other parades and are contacting them to assess their positions in the light of what has been happening," Murphy said.

"But most are going ahead and are planning to travel anyway."

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