JetGreen hopes to find a place in the Spanish sun
JetGreen makes it easier, but not automatically cheaper, for Irish people to travel to the sunspots in Spain, writes ORLA O'SULLIVAN
EVEN a travelling public spoilt by 'free' flights took notice when a new Irish operator offered seats to Spain for ?1, inclusive of all charges.
Approx 4,320 ?1 seats sold within three days of being advertised by JetGreen Airways in late March. That's the firm's entire allotment through late October of the promotional fares.
However, chief executive Pearse Gilroy promises that the ?1 seats are not just a fleeting offer: 12 will be permanently offered on each of its daily flights from Dublin to Malaga and to Alicante. There will be 202 seats on each JetGreen flight. Service starts on May 4.
Some of the many thousands of Irish people who own properties in Spain snapped up several ?1 flights together, said Mr Gilroy, co-founder and former deputy CEO of CityJet.
High demand for daily flights to the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca was made clear when Aer Lingus did "extremely well" on a daily summer service to the Costa del Sol introduced last year, Mr Gilroy noted.
Anyone used to travelling with Ryanair knows that its 'free' flights typically translate to about ?20 each way after taxes and other charges.
JetGreen's ?1 fare covers even the ?6 credit-card processing fee it normally adds to the 'total cost after-tax', quoted on its website.
Although JetGreen's advertising might seem to pit it against Ryanair, the pioneer of free flights, Mr Gilroy said: "We don't see ourselves as undercutting people."
JetGreen, in fact, turned out dearer than Ryanair and the same as Aer Lingus, on a sample itinerary: Dublin to Malaga one-week return, departing May 15.
Cityjet ran almost ?50 higher than the all-in JetGreen/Aer Lingus fare of ?277.
JetGreen worked out more expensive than Ryanair, despite JetGreen's starting fare in May being just ?19, compared with Ryanair's ?69.99.
This reporter has not come across instances of Ryanair discounting the Dublin-Murcia route. Ryanair and CityJet fly to Malaga only on weekends and not at all to Alicante. Aer Lingus flies ex-Dublin and Cork to both, but daily only in summer.
JetGreen will be the only option for people who want a flight only direct from Dublin to Malaga/Alicante weekdays in the off-season.
Property owners also might be interested in keeping their options open by booking one-way flights.
Neither JetGreen nor Ryanair charge proportionately more for a one-way, but with Aer Lingus and CityJet a one-way fare costs almost as much as a round-trip.
A one-way on Wednesday, May 19, for example, costs ?122 net with JetGreen, versus ?243 with Aer Lingus.
It is so hard to tell how many Irish people own Spanish properties that Noreen Hynes, managing director of Aquarius Properties, Dun Laoghaire, said she has been contacted recently by the Spanish Embassy and the Central Statistics Office, amongst others trying to find out.
Jill Kennedy, of Overseas Property Consultants, suggests that Irish people have bought property in Spain more than in any other foreign country.
Mr Gilroy said he heard, but couldn't confirm, that 20,000 Irish people bought in Alicante, alone, in the last two years. Malaga, hub of the Costa del Sol, would be a far bigger market.
JetGreen fares include a hot meal on the flight, said Mr Gilroy, adding: "There's going to be a customer backlash against, charge, charge, charge and give them nothing."
There is no need to confirm flights; once booked seats are guaranteed, Mr Gilroy said. That's a good job since phone calls cost ?1.90 a minute, as I discovered when contacting JetGreen over difficulties experienced online.
"JetGreen is offering the first low-cost first-class service, with an introductory offer of ?199 each way," he added.
JetGreen has also begun to add routes to other Mediterranean cities, including Rome , Nice and Faro in Portugal, Mr Gilroy said.
JetGreen is not yet an airline in its own right. While awaiting its own carrier licence, JetGreen has subcontracted Iceland Air to fly its passengers.
Iceland Air has no financial stake in JetGreen, which is privately owned by its management and a major British investor, Colin Gervaise Brazier.
The only connection to JetBlue, a US discount airline, is the desire to be as successful as it, Mr Gilroy said.