Sunseekers warned of holiday shortage after Thomas Cook pullout
AER LINGUS has said it will look for opportunities to increase its capacity following Thomas Cook's decision to exit the Irish charter holiday market.
But travel agents here warned that consumers would be hit as there could be a shortage of supply in booking last-minute deals this summer.
Thomas Cook is Ireland's second-largest tour operator, but announced plans this week to end its charter business in Ireland with the potential loss of 44 jobs.
It will continue to offer holidays from Ireland using scheduled flights but will handle its Irish business from the UK.
Aer Lingus said it constantly reviewed the market for new opportunities where there was demand for a particular route or destination, and had already scheduled new flights this summer to Pula in Croatia, Hanover in Germany, San Francisco and Toronto, and from Shannon to Malaga.
"We'll be looking for other growth opportunities following Thomas Cook's announcement that they're exiting the market," an Aer Lingus spokeswoman said.
But the Irish Travel Agents Association says consumers will be hit by the Thomas Cook decision to close its Irish charter business as there will be a basic supply-and-demand problem for summer flights.
While charter operators offer last-minute deals when they are left with spare capacity, airlines did the opposite as prices rose close to departure in the summer months, said ITAA chief executive Pat Dawson.
"If you book an airline three or four weeks out, it is very expensive," he said.
Mr Dawson added: "This move by Thomas Cook will impact Irish consumers as there will now be between 60,000 and 80,000 fewer chartered seats leaving Ireland. But there are still over 300,000 airline seats available with plenty of destinations and good choice. Our advice would be to consult with your local ITAA travel agent and book early to ensure the best price."
Clare Dunne, president of the ITAA, said: "We are devastated for our 44 fellow travel professionals who have been impacted by the decision of Thomas Cook and we hope, based on their experience and skills, that they will have no trouble finding new positions."
Meanwhile, Ireland's biggest travel company, Sunway, said yesterday it had enjoyed a 13pc year-on-year increase in bookings for summer holidays as of January 10.
The Irish-owned company takes just 30pc of its bookings online, with 20pc made by telephone.
The remainder are made through a number of third-party, brick-and-mortar travel agents.
Sunway managing director Tanya Airey said that the Irish travel industry had been in transition for the last decade, but Sunway had adapted its offering throughout, using multiple platforms to reach customers.
Sunway had suffered a large drop off in last-minute bookings last year, due to the hot summer, she said.
"If you hadn't booked your holiday early, you were most likely going to stay in Ireland for the summer," she said.
However, she said it would be unrealistic to expect such a long bout of good weather to return for a second year running, and hopes to continue to see increases throughout 2014.