Aer Lingus, Ireland's second-largest airline, said Wednesday it plans to fly nonstop between Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Dublin next summer.
The daily flight to Ireland's capital city marks the sixth nonstop European destination from MSP and gives area travelers a new, and possibly more affordable, way across the Atlantic Ocean.
"We learned that there is significant demand among Minnesota's business community for direct air service to Ireland," Brian Ryks, chief executive of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, said in a statement.
Among the most visible business ties is Medtronic's Dublin headquarters, established when it bought Ireland-based Covidien more than three years ago. The company employs more than 4,000 people in the country, including extensive operations in the western city of Galway.
Ryks and his team, along with business-development organizations Greater MSP and the MSP Regional Air Service Partnership, presented that information to Aer Lingus executives and convinced them that nonstop service between the two cities would be profitable for the airline.
Minneapolis-St. Paul is one of a handful of destinations to benefit from Aer Lingus' rapid expansion in North America. The airline said it also plans to add nonstop service to Montreal in 2019. The airline offers nonstop service between Ireland and New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Orlando, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn.
Tickets will go on sale later this month with the cheapest fare class beginning at $759, Aer Lingus said Wednesday. But an online search of the airline's flights reveals much lower round-trip prices — less than $400 round-trip — from Dublin to Chicago, the nearest market to MSP that Aer Lingus currently serves.
The airline, which was owned by the Ireland government before being privatized, is a subsidiary of International Airlines Group, which also owns British Airways and Iberia. Competition on transatlantic flights has increased in recent years as European ultra-low-cost airlines like Norwegian Air and Wow Air have started flying to select U.S. markets.
Aer Lingus is classified as a mainline carrier, akin to Delta or United airlines in the U.S., but looks like it's on its way to becoming a discount carrier, said Bob Mann, an industry analyst and former airline executive. "All that competitive exposure to Ryanair in the E.U. mandated it," he said.
Last year, the airline introduced a new fare class, called Saver, meant to compete with the ultra-low-cost competitors. But mainline carriers in the U.S. have introduced similar fares, called basic economy, without compromising the experience on the rest of the plane.
"Aer Lingus is not a discount carrier, but they do try to remain competitive," said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog, a fare-monitoring website now owned by TripAdvisor. "They do tend to have some pretty good fares."
He compares Aer Lingus to Icelandair in terms of service and pricing.
Aer Lingus will fly the route, which begins July 8, on a Boeing 757 aircraft. The year-round route will be flown daily during the summer months and four times a week during the winter months.
Dublin, located on the nation's eastern coast, is Ireland's largest city with a population nearing 2 million.
Flights also go from MSP to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Reykjavík, Iceland.