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Interview with Bill Byrne, Senior Vice President of Global Sales for Aer Lingus
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Interview with Bill Byrne, Senior Vice President of Global Sales for Aer Lingus

How did the pandemic impact on Aer Lingus and what lessons were learned?

After a challenging 20 months, we are happy to be in a position again to reconnect friends and family, businesses and colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic, and across Europe.

Our ambitious schedule for Summer 2022 reflects our goal to build to pre-pandemic levels of flying and anticipates continued momentum in customer demand. 

We will build this up over the coming months. Capacity will increase to 80% of 2019 levels by March 2022. By peak summer the airline plans to increase capacity up to 90% of 2019 levels.

 

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for the industry as a whole in the years ahead?

 

Over the past few months the airline has been delighted to begin to recommence key transatlantic routes such as San Francisco and Orlando. The airline has an ambitious summer scheduled for summer 2022 and will operate 16 direct transatlantic routes from Ireland and the UK.

We sought the opportunity of extending our network with the launching of our first direct service from the UK to the US and Caribbean. We believe that there is significant demand for direct transatlantic services from the North of England region. This is effectively a new concept for the North of England. Travellers will be able to enjoy the high-quality Aer Lingus experience that our customers know and love, with the added convenience of the new non-stop travel option for both business and leisure travellers. The Manchester market has seen a significant reduction in direct connections since competitors reduced their capacity in the market and Aer Lingus is in a position to operate services that will cater for this demand. 

This year Aer Lingus also joined the Atlantic Joint Business venture with American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and Level. The partnership offers customers more competitive choice on the groups network across the North Atlantic and Europe. Our customers can mix and match flights operated by any of the six carriers to get the best deals and enjoy smoother connections through coordinated schedules. 

Most recently, the airline and JetBlue also extended their long-standing valued codeshare across the North Atlantic providing customers with even more ways to book travel between the U.S. and Ireland.

The biggest challenge is the constant uncertainty presented by Covid, the industry rule book has been re-written.


Will passenger expectations change post-pandemic?

We believe flexibility will play a huge role when customers are planning to travel and with that in mind we have extended of Book with Confidence policy on all bookings up until 30th September 2022,  allowing customer change their travel dates free of charge (note: a change fee may apply) they travel and as many times as they wish, up until 7 days before travel. For customer with more imminent travel dates, bookings up until 31st January can change their booking up until 2 hours before travel.

What benefits will passengers traveling with Aer Lingus, especially on these transatlantic routes, will find? Can you please tell us more about what is Aer Lingus doing to keep its passengers feeling safe on board and also tell us more about your book with confidence policy.

Our people are trained to ensure that our customers have a safe and comfortable journey. Since the start of the pandemic, Aer Lingus has introduced extensive measures at airports and on-board its aircraft to protect the health of its customers and staff and to ensure a safe and comfortable travel experience.  These measures include:

  • the mandatory wearing of face masks at all times by all customers and crew;
  • social distancing at check in, boarding gate, boarding and disembarking the aircraft;
  • an enhanced cleaning system;
  • a state-of-the-art air filtration technology as standard on our Airbus aircraft 

 

Flying transatlantic with Aer Lingus, customers will benefit from US Customs and Border pre-clearance at both Dublin and Shannon airports. This means that those flying to the U.S., can clear not only U.S. immigration, but also full U.S. customs and agriculture controls. The benefit of this is that you can land as a local! Customers simply collect their baggage at their arrival airport and get on with their day.

As always, customers flying to North America with Aer Lingus will enjoy a warm, attentive, and premium service onboard as well as complimentary meals and drinks. Aer Lingus’ modern fleet of aircraft offer Wi-Fi on board on all long-haul and endless hours of in-flight entertainment s, TV boxsets, games and music,. A new IFE app is also available to allowing customers to connect their device to the seatback and control inflight entertainment options from their own device and the PressReader app, offers customers access to over 7,000 digital newspapers & magazines via their smart device.

We want to give customers the confidence to plan ahead, knowing that should things change they can amend their Aer Lingus booking at no extra cost. As such, Aer Lingus has updated its market-leading ‘Book with Confidence’ policy for bookings until 31st of January 2022, to allow customers with upcoming bookings on any fare type to change their travel dates free of charge (note: a change fee may apply) up to two hours before they travel and as many times as they wish. The existing policy applies on bookings from 1st February to 30th September 2022 which allows customers to change their booking up to seven days before travel. Most fares also include the option to exchange for a guaranteed voucher up to 14 days before travel. In addition, those who booked Advantage, Flex, Business or Business Flex fares have the option of a cash refund if they decide not to travel.


How important is transatlantic travel for Aer Lingus? 

Transatlantic travel is hugely important to the airline and will play a vital role as we rebuild our business. The lifting of the travel ban to the US last month was not only hugely significant to us but to our passengers also, and we are delighted to welcome them back onboard. Our intention as we rebuild in the coming months is to reconnect Ireland to the world and re-establish Dublin Airport as the most efficient connecting hub between the US and Europe.

 

The airline has just launched the Manchester to Orlando route, and a few days ago launched the route to New York, what is your forecast for these routes?

We are anticipating strong customer demand for travel to / from North America, following 18 months of travel restrictions. We saw a very strong response following the US reopening announcement. Our main focus is on value for the customer with our flexible booking policy helping reassure confidence in booking.

 

What other routes in the U.S., which are not currently operated, are of interest to the company?

At the moment, we are concentrating on rebuilding and restoring capacity on our existing routes. We hope to get to approx. 80% of 2019 capacity by March 2022 and reach 90% by mid-Summer 2022.  

For summer 2022, Aer Lingus will operate 16 transatlantic from Ireland (Dublin and Shannon) and Manchester, UK. Which will see the return of Los Angeles, Seattle and Philadelphia the schedule for the first time since 2020.

 

 

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Fuente: ALN News
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