Daily summer seats will rise by 72%, a lot more to fill.
Just over a year after beginning long-haul flights from Manchester, Aer Lingus UK has revealed that it’ll replace the A321LR to New York JFK with the A330-300 from May. Widely expected, it will free up an A321LR to operate Dublin-Cleveland, a brand-new route, and the returning Dublin-Hartford.
Aer Lingus switches A321LR to A330
Aer Lingus began Manchester to New York JFK on December 1st, 2021. It was attracted to the route partly by the market gap and reduction in capacity resulting from the exit of Thomas Cook and United ending Newark-Manchester.
While the inaugural JFK roundtrip was by Aer Lingus UK’s sole A330-200, registered G-EILA, the route was after that operated by its only A321LR, G-EIRH. It’ll continue to use the LR until April 30th, switching to the significantly larger A330-300 from May 1st. Presumably, the LR will return next winter.
Aer Lingus UK doesn’t currently have an A330-300, but its parent has 11. It is unclear which aircraft will be used and which presumably must be re-registered. Its -300s have different configurations, with total seats of up to 317.
Image: Aer Lingus.
Stay aware: Sign up for my weekly new routes newsletter.
Daily JFK seats rise by up to 72%
Currently, Aer Lingus UK has 186 daily departing seats on Manchester-JFK. Come May 1st, that’ll rise to a maximum of 317, depending on which aircraft is deployed, a considerable increase of 72%. There will be up to 119 (+71%) additional economy seats to sell a day, along with 14 more in business (+88%).
The aircraft switch will come in time for the peak season when historical demand has often been double that of key off-peak months, but uncertainty remains.
A 69% seat load factor so far?
According to booking data, it seems that Aer Lingus UK transported around 69,000 Manchester-JFK passengers between December 2021 and August 2022, the most recent month available to me. With just shy of 100,000 seats for sale, it achieved an approximate seat load factor of 69%.
That’s not great in itself. However, it is a long-haul route, it takes time to grow and develop, the pandemic impacted it, and we don’t know how it relates to the carrier’s internal expectations for the period.
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.
More about freeing up an LR?
Given this, I wonder whether the shift to the A330-300 was more about the need to free up an aircraft for Aer Lingus’ growing transatlantic network for Dublin, which will surely inevitably take priority. It seems less in response to route maturity, growing demand, and the competitive environment.
If this is the case, having so many more seats to fill – even in the higher demanded summer – might mean more discounting to increase bookings and to increase SLF, but reducing revenue per seat-mile, or accepting a lower SLF.
But surely not, not least because Manchester-New York is a large market, it’ll be a year and a half since it launched the route, and it’ll no doubt undertake lots of promotional activities. Still, the A330-300 has a much higher trip cost than the LR, perhaps 50% more, increasing risk for the carrier.
It’ll be interesting to watch as it develops and as more traffic statistics become available. What do you make of it? Let us know in the comments.