Aer Lingus considering direct flights from regional UK cities to the US

Sep 2, 2020

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Aer Lingus is investigating the possibility of moving some transatlantic flights from Shannon (SNN) to depart from regional U.K. airports instead. The Irish Times reports that the airline’s two long-range Airbus A321neo aircraft, which usually operate nonstop services from Shannon to the U.S. East Coast, could instead be based at major U.K. airports outside of London.

Edinburgh (EDI) and Manchester (MAN) airports are said to be interested in hosting the new routes as the Irish airline struggles with COVID-19 travel restrictions, falling demand from the Shannon region and network restructures. Aer Lingus has not operated transatlantic flights from Shannon since March.

Their A321LR aircraft are single-aisle, meaning they have fewer seats to fill than wide-body aircraft operated by some of its competitors, yet still have the range to cross the Atlantic.

Related: Flight review: Aer Lingus business class on the A321neo, Dublin to Philadelphia

Any new routes would not commence until 2021, would be subject to regulatory approval and could leave American Airlines as the only transatlantic carrier operating flights to and from Shannon. It is currently unclear how the Irish-based airline would navigate the restrictions on a foreign carrier operating flights between the U.K. and the U.S. The flights may operate as fifth freedoms, or the aircraft used may change registration within parent company IAG, which also owns British Airways. Both airlines use the Avios currency, meaning travellers could likely book these flights in the future with Avios if the flights do proceed.

Related: Great service, thin seat: Review of Aer Lingus on the A321neo in economy from Dublin to Philadelphia

Shannon Airport has unique U.S. preclearance facilities, which allow passengers flying to the United States to clear immigration before boarding their transatlantic flight. This allows them to land as domestic passengers, avoiding the long queues at the U.S. border. This benefit was a key attraction of British Airways all-business-class BA1 service from London City (LCY) to New York (JFK), via Shannon (SNN). This flight has now been discontinued due to the pandemic.

British Airways usually operates a significant network between the U.K. and U.S., though routes regional U.K. passengers though its London hubs in Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW).

British travellers are currently not allowed to directly enter the United States, while those originating in the U.S. can enter the U.K. provided they undertake a 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival.

Featured image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy

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