Aer Lingus announces direct flights to Los Angeles, Connecticut and Newark
Three routes to create 200 jobs
Aer Lingus has added three new US destinations in what was billed today as the single largest expansion of its transatlantic network since 1958.
The airline will fly five times weekly from Dublin to LA from May 2016, with daily flights to Hartford, Connecticut and Newark following in September 2016.
Aer Lingus said the "growth initiative" will create more than 200 jobs for pilots, cabin crew and ground services staff next year.
The three routes will see the airline's long-haul capacity grow by 17pc to two million seats in 2016, bolstering Dublin Airport's position as a transatlantic hub.
"This is the first step in our plans to add North American destinations, bring new aircraft into the fleet, increase passenger numbers and create new jobs," said Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of IAG.
IAG completed its €1.36 billion acquisition of Aer Lingus this September, and Walsh said he believed the "iconic" brand had been enhanced since the takeover.
The scale of the expansion, announced at Dublin's Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, could not have been achieved independently of IAG, he added.
"There is nobody else out there doing anything close to this," Walsh said.
"We think Aer Lingus can really push the boundaries in terms of transatlantic growth, but we're not going to do anything reckless."
Aer Lingus flew from Dublin to LA in the 2000s, but stopped the route in 2008. At the time, high fuel costs, a weak dollar and the economic slowdown were blamed.
Today, it's a different story.
Transatlantic flights have rebounded significantly in recent years, with Ireland now welcoming 10pc of all travellers from the US to Europe, according to Tourism Ireland.
At its peak this summer, Dublin Airport was operating some 47 transatlantic flights a day, while low-cost carrier Norwegian recently announced plans to fly from Cork Airport to Boston from May 2016, and from Cork to New York in 2017.
The new Aer Lingus routes are being pitched as the first major evidence of IAG's stated commitment to growing the airline's long-haul capacity, with further transatlantic connectivity on the cards.
Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Tourism, Trade & Sport, said:
"Today’s announcement of three new routes, the creation of 200 new jobs and transatlantic capacity growth to more than two million seats for the first time ever demonstrates the strength of Aer Lingus as part of the Group."
By 2020, Aer Lingus could deliver "up to 2.4 million more passengers, four additional destinations in North America and eight additional aircraft," IAG said in a statement last May.
The takeover has allowed the airline to "fast-track our ambition", said Chief Executive Stephen Kavanagh.
“Ireland’s geographic location and US immigration pre-clearance provides IAG with the natural gateway to build our business between Europe and North America through Aer Lingus," Walsh added.
By summer 2016, it will operate 28 daily transatlantic services.
The new LA and Newark routes will be operated using Airbus 330s, an Aer Lingus spokesperson said, while Hartford's Bradly International Airport will be serviced with a Boeing 757.
Lead-in prices were quoted from €309 to Newark and €319 to Hartford, with fares expected to start from €329 to Los Angeles.
Other potential destinations had been mooted ahead of the launch, including Miami and Philadelphia. Kavanagh would not be drawn on specifics, however, saying the airline was looking at "a number of new routes" for 2017.
He also noted the opportunity to grow capacity on existing routes.
The new Aer Lingus services follow the launch of a short-haul summer 2016 schedule that adds 250,000 seats to the airline's network from Irish airports.
New European routes for 2016 include direct services from Dublin to Pisa, Murcia and Montpelier, and from Cork Airport to Dusseldorf.
This story has been updated to reflect developments.