By Ray O’Hanlon
The news was flying around faster than Concorde. Fly Continental to Dublin out of Newark and save a bundle over what Aer Lingus was charging.
But Continental Airlines, the Houston, Texas-based carrier that inaugurated new non-stop services to both Shannon and Dublin with some fanfare this week, seemed not to be the agent of its own dazzling PR.
Simply put, Continental appeared puzzled by its own prices.
“All of our fares are competitive with Aer Lingus. They are not exactly the same but very close,” a Continental spokeswoman told the Echo last week when the Echo informed her that her company was offering a particular June departure fare from Newark to Dublin that was almost $1,000 lower than Aer Lingus.
The spokeswoman appeared confused. “Occasionally something like that will happen. It could be a specific deal,” she offered.
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It was just that. But the question was, whose hand was behind the situation in which a family of two adults and two kids under 12 could fly to Dublin from the New Jersey airport before June’s end, returning in July, for just over $1,764 dollars, while the comparable Aer Lingus fare out of Newark was over $2,722?
Aer Lingus had apparently initiated the price war by first reducing adult fares to Shannon. But it could not apply the savings to Dublin because of heavy advance bookings. There were not enough seats to Dublin to make a matching offer possible, an Aer Lingus spokesman indicated.
However, the really big savings came with the kids. Aer Lingus was charging a normal 75 percent of the adult fare. Continental was charging 50 percent, although its Houston spokeswoman seemed unaware of the extra discount.
The lower rate had apparently been inserted by Continental into the “Sabre Central Reservations System,” the computer program used by some travel agents. Other systems, meanwhile, were showing a 75 percent children’s fare on Continental. Either way, a direct result was a rush to Continental’s fledgling Newark service.
One source suggested that the lower fare might have been accidental, possibly keyed into the Sabre system by mistake.
But all cheap things come to an end. Aer Lingus this week did extend its lower fare to Shannon through July and August and was also offering the lower rates on some flights to Dublin – a late nighter out of Kennedy and the carrier’s peak summer flights out of Newark and Kennedy that still observe the old “Shannon stopover.”
Non-stop Aer Lingus seats to Dublin, however, retained a pricetag of $798 plux tax, and were scarce besides.
And Continental’s fare for a July departure and August return to both Shannon and Dublin nosed up a bit to $608 plus tax. More significantly, the child fare also rose to the more normal monetary altitude of 75 percent of the adult price.
Somewhere amid the fiber optic lines and computer chips, the system had righted itself. An uneasy equilibrium was restored to the crowded summer skies – at least for now.
Amnesty call in Finucane case
Amnesty International has stepped up its efforts to secure a judicial inquiry into the 1989 murder in Belfast of attorney Pat Finucane.
“Amnesty International, together with the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Human Rights, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, and British and Irish Rights Watch, is urging the UK government to set up an independent judicial inquiry into the killing of Patrick Finucane,” Amnesty said in a statement released in New York.
“We believe that this might be the final chance of persuading the UK Government to investigate Finucane’s death,” the statement added.
It referred to the recent report by U.N. Special Rapporteur, Param Cumaraswamy, calling for an inquiry into the “intimidation, harassment and hindrance” of lawyers in Northern Ireland.
“Our action, as a follow-up to the Special Rapporteur’s Report, may help to persuade the UK Government to undertake this investigation,” the Amnesty statement concluded.
To be or not to be . . .
The Irish Arts Center in Manhattan is currently auditioning for “Moonshine,” an Irish play written by Jim Nolan. The Center is seeking two women and four men to play Bridget, 17, and Elizabeth, 22; McKeever, 42-45, Rev. Langton, 50-57, Michael, early 20s, and Griffin, late 20s or early 30s. Performance dates are Sept. 24 into October. Please send head shots and resumes to Moonshine, P.O. Box 5414, New York, NY 10185-5414.