Cleveland has been without Europe flights since 2018. And now, flush with up to $3 million in incentives from the city council and local groups – which may increase further – the Ohio airport is actively courting a new operator. According to Cleveland media, it is Aer Lingus, with an official announcement likely next week.

What’s happening?

Although details are sketchy, it is believed that Aer Lingus will begin Dublin to Cleveland next May. While there’s inconsistency in potential frequency – one official document says daily, publications say 4x weekly – the 3,466 miles (5,578km) route would use the carrier’s 184-seat A321LRs. 4x weekly seems more realistic, but it isn’t clear if it’d be year-round or summer-seasonal.

Aer Lingus’ A321LRs have 16 fully flat business seats and 168 seats in economy. With a long range and far lower capacity and trip cost than a widebody, offset by a higher seat-mile cost, they enable new route opportunities. Especially, perhaps, if incentivized – a common way to attract airlines, and a way for carriers to prioritize opportunities.

In return for incentives, the ‘community’ should benefit from greater economic benefits. As always, the question remains whether the airline would hang around after the inducements – likely for three years – have ended.

Aer Lingus' US and Canada route network April 2023

Aer Lingus’ network from Ireland to the US and Canada in April 2023. Highlighted in yellow is the likely but not yet guaranteed Cleveland. Image: GCMap.

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Dublin is small…

Aer Lingus is interesting. According to booking data, the Cleveland-Dublin point-to-point (P2P) market had only around 14,000 roundtrip passengers in 2019. That wasn’t much, particularly if compared to Cleveland-London (about 40,000).

Dublin was the Ohio airport’s fifth-largest European market behind London Heathrow (no surprise!), Paris CDG, Amsterdam, and Rome. Booking data shows that Heathrow also had a much higher average one-way fare ($795 excluding taxes and any fuel surcharge) than Dublin ($411), reflecting higher premium demand.

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Aer_Lingus A321neo EI-LRC

Aer Lingus uses the A321LR on particular routes from Dublin and Shannon (and Manchester) to North America. Photo:  Adam Moreira via Wikimedia .

Would focus on wider Europe

Of course, Aer Lingus would grow the Dublin P2P market through nonstop service and strong promotional campaigns. Indeed, a route should ideally be supported by an adequate P2P base as such traffic is typically higher-yielding. It would also target UK and wider Europe-bound passengers for more volume and revenue and to fill aircraft.

According to booking data, Cleveland-Europe had around 268,000 roundtrip passengers in 2019. Yes, Aer Lingus would offer a nonstop to Europe, and more choice in larger markets, while making some (smaller) markets one-stop. But there’s already a myriad of alternative airlines offering one-stop options in Cleveland’s more important European markets.

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Aer Lingus A321neo EI-LRA

Cleveland’s past Europe service

Cleveland is no stranger to Europe flights. Most recently, it welcomed now-defunct WOW and Icelandair from Keflavik between May and October 2018. As they say about waiting for a bus, you wait for ages, and two come along simultaneously.

According to the US Department of Transportation, the pair transported 57,000 passengers between them, with an average seat load factor of 70%, no doubt influenced by lower fares.

Before that, Continental flew to London Gatwick using B757-200ERs from July 1999 and August 2008, then briefly to London Heathrow in 2009, when it was permitted to serve the airport following the US-EU open skies agreement. It also served Paris CDG between May and August 2008.

What do you make of it all? Let us know in the comments.

Source of Aer Lingus’ likely launch:


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