Aer Lingus’ Chief Executive Stephen Kavanagh has, this week, confirmed that the airline will be deciding on two new North American destinations, from a shortlist of three possibilities. The Irish Times reports that two likely destinations are Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Montréal – in addition to a possible destination in the Midwest.
These latest plans for transatlantic expansion come after years of steady, yet sustained growth in the market. The carrier has expanded even more rapidly since IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia and others) bought it – with new routes being added to Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Hartford, New York Newark, Philadelphia, Seattle and Miami since 2015. Today, the airline serves 13 destinations in North America – but with a limited fleet of just 13 Airbus A330s and 5 leased Boeing 757s – the airline simply cannot expand any further with its current fleet.
However, next year, Aer Lingus will begin receiving its order of 12 Airbus A321LR aircraft, meaning the airline will be able to initiate a new raft of expansion – the first of which will be the two destinations shortlisted this year, beginning in July 2019, with seats on sale shortly after announcement.
The new Airbus A321LR aircraft open up a range of new possibilities for Aer Lingus. Initially, they will likely be used for Aer Lingus’ transatlantic flights from Shannon – replacing leased Boeing 757s – but the airline is clearly also ambitious in adding new “long and thin” flights to smaller North American markets which previously weren’t feasible with larger aircraft. Additionally, the airline may choose to replace Airbus A330s with multiple A321LR frequencies on shorter transatlantic jaunts, freeing up longer-range aircraft to operate to new destinations such as Denver, Dallas or Las Vegas, for example.
With this logic, it would make sense for Aer Lingus to launch flights to Montréal – taking the number of destinations they serve in Canada to 2, following the successful growth of their Toronto operation since 2014. Pittsburgh is also a destination seeing growth from IAG at present, with British Airways recently announcing service to London. In the Midwest, many have speculated that Aer Lingus could be eyeing service to Minneapolis or Detroit – both of which are within the theoretical range of the Airbus A321LR.
Going forward, it is clear that Aer Lingus will have many new opportunities for growth with the forthcoming arrival of new Airbus A321LR equipment. Although the two shortlisted destinations will be the start of that new wave of expansion, they certainly will not mark the end.