Flybe CEO eyes more Irish growth
UK regional airline Flybe is eyeing further opportunities in Ireland, including growing its business by targeting customers wanting to travel from Britain to the US via Dublin, with chief executive Saad Hammad describing it as "a strategic thrust".
Dublin's US pre-clearance facilities, which allow passengers to be screened by immigration and customs before they arrive in America, has proved to be an attractive proposition for westbound travellers in the UK, particularly those in regional cities.
Stobart Air operates Aer Lingus Regional under a franchise agreement with Aer Lingus, and has had significant success in funnelling US-bound passengers from the UK through Dublin.
But Mr Hammad, a former Easyjet executive, said it was "early days" for Flybe in terms of attracting that type of business.
"We'll see how it develops," he said. "We think there's a big market there eventually."
He said that Flybe's regional customers want access to the world.
"There is incremental business there to be had," he said. "Part of our mission going forward is to make that happen."
Dublin is one of just two locations in Europe - the other being Shannon - that have US pre-clearance and customs facilities.
Flybe is launching a service between Dublin and London City Airport on October 27. British Airways launches its service on the route the day before, pitching both airlines against Dublin-based Cityjet, which has until now been the only service provider on the route.
Mr Hammad said ticket sales for the new service have so far have been in line with expectations.
He insisted Flybe will be able to offer the service at a cheaper price point to Cityjet and be able to compete on the route.
"With our cost base, we think we can be super competitive against BA and Cityjet," he said. "Competition is good. It brings out the best in everyone. We're confident we've got the right cost base, the right programme to support that cost base."
Mr Hammad took up the CEO role at Flybe last year, as the airline teetered on the verge of collapse. It has since been radically restructured.
Flybe already operates services to Dublin as well as Waterford, Knock and Donegal. It's also launching services from Dublin to London Southend and Inverness.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has told Ryanair he has "no intention" of revoking a direction he issued to the Commission for Aviation Regulation last week instructing it to be mindful of Dublin Airport's financial stability when determining new airport charges.
Ryanair had threatened to seek a judicial review of the direction. Ryanair said it's reviewing the Minister's letter.