Aer Lingus begins nonstop service between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Dublin Monday.
The service gives Minnesotans a new international airline and a new nonstop European destination. Here’s what you need to know:
What is Aer Lingus?
Aer Lingus is the flag carrier of Ireland with its major hub operating at Dublin Airport. It’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, and has recently been expanding its transatlantic service with new nonstop U.S. markets. Including MSP, it serves 13 U.S. cities and Toronto.
What type of airline is it?
It’s not a “legacy carrier” like Delta Air Lines, but neither is it an ultralow cost carrier. The airline aims to set its fares at or below the U.S. mainline carriers, such as United and American airlines. “We are aggressive about that,” said Bill Byrne, vice president of North America for Aer Lingus. The good news for Minnesotans is this is already putting downward pressure on airfare to get across the pond. Tickets to Dublin are currently about $300 below average for July.
Byrne calls Aer Lingus a “value carrier” but with a better international flight experience than many of the budget options available. There’s a marked difference between its intra-Europe flight amenities, which are more scaled back, and that which is offered on its international flights — like the MSP route. Those flying economy class between MSP and Dublin will get a free bag, complimentary in-flight entertainment, two full meals and a fully staffed flight attendant service.
Travelers also have the option of a free stopover in Dublin on their way to another European city, much like Icelandair’s famous stopover program in Reykjavik. Byrne argues Ireland is a “more natural tourist destination” with all of the cultural connections between Ireland and the U.S., but the programs operate similarly. Passengers traveling to England, for example, can either immediately connect in Dublin or stick around the city for a couple of days before moving on to their primary vacation destination elsewhere.
What are the flight details?
It’s a 7 hour and 30 minute flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Dublin and a little more than 8 hours and 30 minutes on the return. The inbound flight arrives at 4:50 p.m. and the departing flight leaves at 6:45 p.m.
MSP-DUB will initially be flown on a 177-seat Boeing 757 operated by ASL Airlines. Aer Lingus contracts with ASL on four transatlantic routes, in a deal that has enabled Aer Lingus to expand its long haul network. Byrne said Aer Lingus will replace the 757 in its fleet by 2020 with the new Airbus A321neo-LR. However, that aircraft is not yet approved to fly the distance between Minneapolis and Dublin, so the MSP route will likely be flown on an Airbus A330.
Inbound passengers can clear U.S. Customs in Dublin Airport, expediting their arrival at MSP.
The year-round route will be flown six days a week for the first month before bumping up to daily for the remainder of the summer and fall months. It will fly four times a week through winter.
Why did Aer Lingus choose Minneapolis-St. Paul?
One word: Medtronic.
Minnesota’s biggest med-tech firm, and one of the biggest employers in the Twin Cities, is technically now based in Dublin, following its 2014 acquisition of Covidien PLC.
Another large med-tech company, Boston Scientific, has major operations both here and in Ireland.
While business demand drove the launch of the route, Aer Lingus also hopes to spur more tourism between the two cities.
About 10% of Minnesotans claim Irish ancestry, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey one-year estimates. Aer Lingus is pitching Minnesota, its outdoor lifestyle — particularly its water sports — through a tourism campaign in Ireland, Northern Germany and Northern Great Britain. There’s also the Mall of America.
“The Irish love to shop. They have shopping clubs over there,” said Paula Svadlena, Aer Lingus’ Midwest regional sales manager. “They love brands and those brands are a lot cheaper here.”