Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline, said yesterday that efforts to preserve its once-daily flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Shannon have failed, and it will abandon the route.
The airline, which came to BWI in 2000, has been transforming itself into one of the first low-cost transoceanic airlines in the past two years. BWI, Aer Lingus officials said, no longer fits into its business model, which requires frequent and full flights. The airline now has one inbound flight and one outbound flight on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The Airbus A330s the airline uses on trans-Atlantic flights seat 250 to 300 people and have been up to 80 percent full during summer months. But business lagged in the winter.
During the colder months, the airline said, not enough business travelers have been willing to stop in Shannon en route to Dublin. There haven't been enough Irish travelers seeking a trip to the Baltimore-Washington market. And, further complicating the picture, the weak dollar has put off overseas travel, according to Aer Lingus officials.
"The BWI Airport management as well as officials from both the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland worked diligently with the Aer Lingus management team in an attempt to overcome these obstacles and make the route a success," said Jack Foley, the airline's executive vice president for North America. "Regrettably, the issues were beyond their control, and we were forced to make this commercial decision."
The move is another setback to BWI's struggling international service, which also recently lost Air Ghana, grounded in July. That leaves a half-dozen mostly small international carriers that together have less than 12 daily flights to cities in Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico and a handful of other places.
Aer Lingus' service will end Wednesday. The airline previously had said it would not offer the route during the less-popular winter months but had left open the prospect of returning in the spring. Passengers with tickets will be contacted and offered refunds, the airline said.
BWI officials, however, say they will stay in touch with the carrier, which had left the airport once before - after Sept. 11, 2001, because of financial problems.
The airport says the airline could return again, especially if the Irish government repeals a rule that requires the national airline to land half its flights in the less-populated Shannon and half in the more popular Dublin.
It will have to make its case to a new set of officials, however. Aer Lingus announced last week that three top executives who had been working on the airline's transition to a low-fare carrier had resigned.
Jonathan Dean, BWI spokesman, said airport officials have established new ties and have pitched a plan to establish nonstop service from BWI to Dublin.
"It is BWI's belief that this proposed Dublin service would be a more commercially practical and successful route, both for BWI and the airline," he said.
Dean said BWI officials also continue talks with other airlines about expanding and adding service.