May 15, 2017
Focus: Transportation

Aer Lingus adds to Bradley’s lofty passenger traffic aims

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
Irish flag air carrier Aer Lingus has boosted Connecticut’s international-flight boardings since launching direct flights last fall between Bradley International Airport and Dublin.
Connecticut’s airports chief Kevin Dillon.

On the eve of Bradley International Airport's peak air-travel season, Connecticut's biggest air-hub is experiencing a rebirth in trans-Atlantic flights from Aer Lingus and other overseas carriers.

Since it launched direct, round-trip service to Bradley via Dublin, Ireland last September, Aer Lingus has contributed directly to increased international traffic at the Windsor Locks airfield, Bradley officials say.

Aer Lingus counted 21,861 passengers on its Bradley flights (including those arriving to and departing from Windsor Locks) from September through this February, according to data provided by the Connecticut Airport Authority. October was the airline's most active month, with its total passenger counts reaching nearly 7,000.

"They're doing well. The service is performing as expected,'' said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, overseer for Bradley and the state's handful of smaller airports.

In exchange for the state's $9 million revenue "stop-loss'' guarantee, Aer Lingus committed to keeping its Bradley service for two years, through Sept. 2018.

"We're expecting the service will stay in place past 2018,'' Dillon said.

Aer Lingus spokesman Declan Kearney declined to comment on the airline's performance at Bradley so far. Kearney also declined to say whether its planes arrive at or leave Bradley full, half-full, or empty. He would only say that Ireland's flag carrier has begun accepting bookings for the winter-travel season, from October through next spring.

Overall, Bradley continued in 2016 to see an uptrend in domestic-international passenger counts, to 6,060,943 — a 2.1 percent increase from 2015, data show. In 2015, all boardings rose 1 percent, to 5,933,080. They rose 8 percent in 2014, to 5,875,801.

Bradley passenger counts are likely to continue to rise. Dillon said Bradley has capacity to support a departing-arriving passenger count above 10 million. Whether Bradley meets that goal, Dillon said, depends on the airport's ability to serve existing and future air carriers.

"We think the market is capable of meeting that number," Dillon said.

Passenger traffic is likely to experience another boost starting in June when Norwegian Air International will launch low-cost summer and winter flights to Edinburgh, Scotland, out of Bradley.

Norwegian flights will operate three times a week beginning June 17, and twice weekly during the winter season.

Meantime, in late April, Spirit Airlines began low-cost flights between Bradley from Orlando, Fla. Spirit also has another Connecticut route, which is seasonal, to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Dillon says other air carriers have begun sniffing around Bradley in the wake of Aer Lingus' arrival and Norwegian Air's plans. He declined to identify them.

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