(UPDATED 12:13 p.m. Thursday) It won’t be available until September 2016, but once the new daily flights from Hartford to Dublin get started they are expected to be popular with college students, business executives, and leisure travelers.
The announcement Wednesday at Bradley International Airport that Aer Lingus would start daily flights from Hartford to Dublin and Dublin to Hartford was one of the worst kept secrets in the state. The announcement comes a year after state officials, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, started wooing the Irish airline, including a stop on the way to the Paris Air Show.
As far as helping Aer Lingus succeed, Malloy said the state will commit $4.5 million per year to the airline for two years, in order to “backstop against losses.”
Rather than giving Aer Lingus $4.5 million outright, the money would be used only to insure against losses on the operation of a Dublin-Bradley nonstop. That means Aer Lingus and the state would settle on a break-even point for the flight, and Connecticut would make up the difference if Aer Lingus incurs any revenue shortfall, up to $4.5 million.
Jack Foley, an executive vice president with Aer Lingus, said they expect to be competitive when it comes to price.
Using current business class prices and availability as an example, he said a roundtrip flight from Bradley to Paris now takes about 18 hours with two connections and costs $5,193 for one adult. He said a nonstop from Boston to Paris in business class is currently almost $10,000, round trip. As a comparison, he said a business class flight from Bradley to Paris on Aer Lingus next year will be $5,400, round trip.
Using current rates for Aer Lingus flights in economy seating, a roundtrip flight from Boston to Dublin, Nov. 2-9, was $730.79. A roundtrip flight on the same dates from New York to Dublin was $1,350.79. The median of those two prices is $1,040.79.
It’s a six hour flight on a Boeing 757 from Hartford to Dublin. The daily flight will depart Bradley at 6:20 p.m. and arrive in Dublin at 5:20 a.m., and one flight will depart Dublin at 2:30 p.m. and arrive at Bradley at 4:40 p.m. Each flight will include 12 business class seats and 165 economy seats.
All passengers will be pre-screened so that when the flight lands in Dublin it will be like those passengers just got off a domestic flight.
“I think the pre-clearance is going to be a big selling-point,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said.
Aer Lingus expanded its transatlantic flights from nine to 12 Wednesday when it announced daily flights at Bradley, Newark, and service five days a week from Los Angeles.
“We wanted to be in this footprint of New England,” Foley said.
Bradley International Airport is just north of Hartford and just south of Springfield, Mass. There are also 41 colleges in the area, many of which have relationships with colleges in Europe.
“Airlines do not by default create demand. They respond to it,” Foley said.
He said they were convinced by Malloy and members of the Connecticut Airport Authority that Hartford was the right place to expand service.
Passenger traffic at Bradley increased 8.4 percent in 2014.
The new flight comes after Malloy created the Connecticut Airport Authority in 2011 with the specific aim of enhancing Bradley — as well as the state’s five other general aviation airports — into vibrant economic drivers and attract flights and services.
Mary Ellen Jones, chair of the Connecticut Airport Authority board, said re-establishing transatlantic service has been a top priority.
“The new Aer Lingus service will not only provide our region’s business and leisure travelers with convenient access to Ireland, but it also promises connecting service through Dublin to other major hubs in Europe and beyond,” Jones said.
A transatlantic flight to Amsterdam operated by Northwest Airlines was discontinued in 2009 when the airline merged with Delta at the start of the Great Recession.
Bradley offers international flights to Canada and Mexico, but this will be the first transatlantic flight since 2009.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have updated this story with additional reporting. Because a lot of business people were in the room during Wednesday’s news conference, Mr. Foley was referring entirely to business class prices specific to current trips from Bradley to Paris. We have added video of the news conference above and information on economy rates for current flights from Boston and New York to Dublin, as well as the median cost of those current prices, which is about $1,041.