Aer Lingus, You’re Killin’ Me
Score one for Ireland when Shannon and Dublin airports annonced US Customs and Immigration Pre-Clearance, a new facility that allows passengers to complete all US “inspections” before leaving Ireland…the only one of its kind in Europe.
That means planes leaving the Emerald Isle can, in theory, land at any international OR domestic airport in the US, and re-connecting visitors don’t have to recheck their luggage and clear Customs and Immigration before catching next their flight.
Sounds like a great opportunity, right? The reality… opportunity missed. The service opened in Shannon last month, but Aer Lingus, the country’s major airline, has chosen not participate until the facility opens in Dublin next year.
They’ve offered a list of reasons NOT to capitalize on this unique service. In fact, outside of a few folks in Shannon, no one seems be talking about how the country can leverage Pre-Clearance to increase business and possibly re-establish Ireland as a hub for travel between Europe and the US.
Instead, Aer Lingus is riding the Economic Woes bandwagon in the press. Every day or two a new release comes out outlining their falling passenger numbers and/or revenue and/or rising costs (at least Ryan Air mixes it up a little with threats of pay-per-use potties and “standing” flights). “The economy” is quickly becoming the cop out excuse of 2009, and will likely discern the innovators from the bail-out beggers.
I must say, I’m starving for something coming from Aer Lingus that projects them into future… you know, NEWS! Alas, short-sighted fiscal reactions appear to be smothering any long-term strategy.
Ireland Expert Pat Preston has done an excellent job of outlining Pre-Clearance on her blog… you can read her post here. I must echo her sentiment, the airlines embracing the new system, Continental, Delta* and US Airways, deserve our business.
For fifteen years, I’ve been loyal to Aer Lingus, but this fall I’ve been hit with a double-whammy… the lack of participation in US Pre-Clearance AND the suspension of the Chicago to Shannon route I usually fly.
Aer Lingus has been quick to point out that I can still fly them from Chicago to Shannon, but they fail to mention that in most cases that would require deplaning in Dublin, passing through Immigration and Customs, re-checking my luggage and boarding another flight (hey, didn’t I hear them reference that proceedure as an excuse for not participating in the first wave of Pre-Clearance?)… oh, and there’s also the fact that I’d have to take a 7am flight out of Shannon followed by the 6-hour layover in Dublin. Not cool, Aer Lingus.
I just checked; Continental and Delta have flights from Milwaukee (closer to my home than Chicago) to Shannon via Newark/JFK for LESS than Aer Lingus’ Chicago to Dublin to Shannon fare. Normally, I’d pay the extra to fly Aer Lingus, but not this year.
Who knows, I might like this new route and start earning frequent flyer miles with another airline… oh yeah, Aer Lingus did away with frequent flier rewards several years ago.
*NOTE ADDED Sept 14, 2009: Delta Airlines announced in early September plans to cease their New York to Shannon route begining Oct 4, 2009.