Pack your bags as USA return flights to fall below €300 in price war
Irish holidaymakers are set to benefit from a looming air fare price war as traditional airlines are challenged by budget carriers on money-spinning transatlantic routes.
Low-cost airlines, Norwegian Air International (NAI) and Wow, are promising to slash fares on key Irish-US routes from next summer.
Return fares could plummet to below €300 in route launch promotions by the budget carriers.
Aer Lingus and United Airlines, the two traditionally dominant transatlantic carriers from Dublin and Shannon, are now set to increase seat capacity this year as Ireland targets tourism growth in the US and Canadian markets to offset likely falls in UK visitor numbers due to Brexit and currency factors.
Aer Lingus will now offer a whopping 2.5 million seats to the US this year - and will increase its US route schedule from 12 to 13 destinations.
This is part of Fáilte Ireland's drive to target major tourism growth in the US market for 2017.
Under its summer sale, Aer Lingus offers fully inclusive direct return fares to the US from €498 out of both Shannon and Dublin.
United Airlines fares also start at around €500.
Wow, which offers connections to the US from Ireland via Iceland, are now offering return fares out of Cork from €298.
Norwegian, meanwhile, is hoping to use a new generation of high-efficiency aircraft such as the Boeing 737-MAX to offer exceptionally low fares on its direct Irish-US routes.
The airline is now offering launch fares on Edinburgh-US routes from €68 one-way.
Airline boss Bjorn Kjos said that pricing structures on their new Irish routes have yet to be set.
However, Cork and Shannon airport officials expect the fare structures to closely reflect those of Norwegian's new Edinburgh operation.
This could mean that mid-range inclusive transatlantic return tickets could cost substantially less than €300.
Norwegian has yet to confirm where the Cork and Shannon services will operate to Boston and New York.
The airline last month won a two-year battle to get an operating licence from US authorities for its planned Irish routes.
There is now growing speculation that, like Ryanair, Norwegian will opt for secondary airport hubs rather than prime facilities like JFK and Newark in New York/New Jersey or Logan Airport in Boston.
Tourism Ireland boss Niall Gibbons said the North American market will be very important for Ireland this year.
"The best prospects for growth next year are across North America," he said.
"We will see a growth of at least 10pc in seat numbers so that offers great prospects.
"We are also expanding advertising across Germany and France next year."