US airline committed to Irish market as demand set to rise
US carrier Continental Airlines expects to fly about 8pc more American passengers to Ireland this year than last and said it remained committed to the Irish market.
The airline is part of United after the two carriers agreed to merge last year.
United's vice-president for transatlantic, the Middle East and India services, Charles Duncan, said yesterday that Continental had been reasonably surprised at the sustained level of demand for seats to Ireland from the US despite the tough economic conditions on both sides of the Atlantic.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Duncan declined to divulge either the airline's load factor on its Irish services or the number of passengers it expected to carry to and from Ireland this year, but added that since Continental began servicing Ireland in 1998, it had carried 3.3 million passengers out of Dublin and Shannon combined.
"We are pleasantly surprised that demand across the Atlantic and specifically here in Ireland is as strong as it is given the economic climate," he said.
"We're seeing few Irish visitors to the US and more Americans coming in. That's a bit counter-intuitive, but frankly we don't care. We're selling from both ends, so as long as the sum total works."
Mr Duncan said Continental remained "very opportunistic" and pointed out that more demand entailed more flights.
Continental recently announced that it was boosting its services from Shannon to Newark by four flights a week until the beginning of September. Continental also operates out of Belfast.
Tourism Ireland said recently that nearly 12pc more passengers arrived in Ireland from the US between January and March this year than in the corresponding period in 2010.
"In Shannon, we've seen a lot of operators pull out and we've got a nice business there."
Mr Duncan said that Continental was "very committed" to Ireland, adding that the scale of the merger with United cemented its ability to operate out of countries such as Ireland, where small operators such as Aer Lingus struggle.
He described the joint venture Aer Lingus has with United, where the Irish carrier operates a service from Washington DC to Madrid that's also bookable via United's website, as "an interesting and innovative project".