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Aer Lingus hikes fuel levy for second time in month

PASSENGERS travelling to the US with Aer Lingus will soon face round-trip fuel surcharges of up to €200 after the airline yesterday announced the levy's second increase in less than a month.

From Wednesday, flights to San Francisco and LA will carry a fuel surcharge of €100 each way, up from the current €90.

Meanwhile, flights to Orlando will be hit with an €85 levy, up €10, and the levy on trips to New York, Boston and Washington will rise €10 to €75. Short-haul flights remain free of surcharges.

Aer Lingus chalked the latest increase down to "the soaring cost of oil", rejecting accusations of "profiteering".

Corporate affairs director Enda Corneille, however, last night admitted the charges were "getting close to" the peak passengers would tolerate.

With limited scope for further increases, Aer Lingus is believed to be considering mothballing one of its long-haul planes in Dublin this winter, mirroring Ryanair's decision to ground "three to four planes" here. Some suggest this move may be outlined as early as tomorrow at Aer Lingus's annual general meeting.

Slammed

Yesterday's announcement marks the seventh increase in Aer Lingus fuel surcharges in just two years and was once again slammed by rival Ryanair, which has repeatedly accused Aer Lingus of using the surcharges to "gouge" customers.

"We are absolutely not gouging people," Aer Lingus corporate affairs director Enda Corneille insisted last night. "Fuel is at record levels and we always said fuel surcharges would follow fuel prices."

He added that the levy was still "less than half" the fuel cost of carrying passengers across the Atlantic.

Asked whether the fuel surcharge would double if oil hit double its current levels, Mr Corneille said "probably not".

"There is a maximum people will pay, my sense is that we're getting close to that," he added.

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He insisted, however, that there was "no evidence" the current fuel surcharges were having any impact on bookings, even though Aer Lingus filled just 60pc of their longhaul seats in April.

Simon Nugent, head of the Irish Travel Agents' Association, said passengers had come to accept fuel surcharges as a part of the mix for longhaul trips.

"Consumers are well aware of the rising cost of fuel so are not surprised to see these surcharges," he said.

"So long as the dollar stays low, people factor in an additional €20 in the cost of the flight in the context of the value/cost of the whole trip."


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