Flying to Ireland? Let’s count the ways

Ed Forry

The competition for flights to Ireland this summer is really heating up.

The US government, under the “Open Skies” agreement with the EU, has given the go-ahead to Norwegian Air to launch new transatlantic flights from Ireland to the states. The low-cost airline will begin its first flights in July, using TF Green Airport in Providence. When that schedule is activated, there will be a half dozen ways to get from New England to Ireland by air:

• Aer Lingus, the Ireland-based airline, offers daily service from its traditional Gateway Logan to both Shannon and Dublin;

• Delta Airlines will begin daily seasonal service to Dublin in early May through October, offering late evening flights attractive to business travelers, who can have a full business day in Boston and arrive to do business before noon in Dublin;

• Two Iceland-based carriers, Icelandair and the low cost WOW Airlines, offer one-stop options to Dublin, Belfast, and Cork, with a change of planes (and allowable stay-over) in Reykjavik;

• Beginning July 2, Norwegian Air (NAI) will offer service to Cork, Shannon, Dublin and Belfast, although not from Logan. NAI is establishing a Providence base at Green Airport in Warwick, some 60 miles south of Boston. NAI will also begin flights to Edinburgh, Scotland on July 1;

• Other options, although not as convenient, are London flights offered by several legacy airlines, including British Air, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic, with connections to cities on the island of Ireland; and last year, western Massachusetts and Connecticut travelers were pleased when Aer Lingus initiated flights from Bradley International in Hartford.

Beginning this summer, NAI will offer as many as 24 flights weekly from Ireland to New England and New York state, flying to airports in Providence, Hartford and New Windsor, NY, on the Hudson River near West Point. And in a carefully crafted marketing move, the airline recently bought a full page ad in the Boston Globe offering an introductory fare of just $65 each way. The offering sold out within hours.

Although the new service had been anticipated locally for some time, last year the talk had been that the flights would be between Cork and Boston. There was great enthusiasm in Cork when NAI spoke of “Cork/Boston” flights, and political and business leaders in Boston lobbied aggressively for approval from the US Transportation Department. But there was disappointment when it was learned the airline had bypassed Boston’s Logan for cheaper landing costs in Providence.

The new NAI routes create a strong competition in the transatlantic marketplace, and it’s no surprise that most of the Norwegian flights will be to Dublin, Europe’s fastest-growing airport. Aer Lingus has been marketing Dublin as a hub for its connecting flights to destinations all over Europe, and late last month the airline’s CEO “came out swinging” at news of the new service, the the Irish Times reported.

Aer Lingus said it  “is sceptical, claiming the fares Norwegian is offering – as low as 69 euro one way – are simply a stunt and not the building block of a viable business,” according to the published report.

As for the Norwegian flights, super-economy priced tickets come with extra charges, a pricing structure similar to the hugely successful no-frills Ryanair. We priced a mid-September NAI Providence/Dublin round trip for under $500: $249 to Dublin, $244 return to Providence.

But there were extras- a reserved seat, checked bag, and a meal can cost an additional $105, upping the cost to $650-700.
When we checked online, we did find some one-way fares next fall as low as $99 in the “economy cabin.” But be forewarned: The cheap fares come at a cost in comfort: Legroom is tight- just 31 inches. In the premium, higher-priced seats, legroom is 46 inches.