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Taoiseach speaks to the media during a visit to Boston's Logan airport to mark JetBlue's new daily flights from Boston to Dublin. Alamy Stock Photo
transatlantic travel

Airport passenger cap 'a concern' for JetBlue as new Dublin route aims to reduce airfares

JetBlue says it hopes the passenger cap won’t interfere with expanding the service to Dublin.

AMERICAN AIRLINE JETBLUE’S entry into the Irish market should drive down airfares for transatlantic travel, but the airline warns the passenger cap at Dublin Airport was a concern when deciding to open up its new routes. 

Airport operator DAA has applied to Fingal County Council to have the cap increased to 40 million.

The planning board, An Bord Pleanála, imposed the limit when it granted permission to Dublin Airport to build the north runway. 

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has heavily criticised the government, and the Transport Minister Eamon Ryan in particular, stating that the cap will cost the Irish economy business. 

O’Leary said a failure to lift the passenger cap at Dublin Airport meant that airline business was now being sent to other parts of Europe

Speaking to The Journal at Boston Logan Airport today, where the Taoiseach was meeting with JetBlue executives and staff ahead of the first JetBlue flight from Boston to Dublin this evening, Robert Land, Senior Vice President and Head of Government Affairs for JetBlue, said when the airline was considering starting flights from Dublin the passenger cap on Dublin Airport did come into play.

‘A concern’

“It did and it’s a concern. We’re very grateful that the airport authority was able to work us in, and I think we have a really good working relationship with them. It’s our hope that the cap will not interfere with our continued presence,” he said. 

From today, JetBlue will operate daily ­transatlantic flights from Dublin to New York and Boston.

The service beginning today is seasonal, running for about six months during the high season, but Land said it is the company’s hope that the planes will be full enough that the service can expand to year-round.

“It’s also our hope that we’ll never bump into that cap,” he added. 

‘Driving down fares’

“There’s something here in the US called the JetBlue effect and it’s where you go into a market domestic or international, we go in with lower fares and a better product, and it forces everyone else to up their game and lower their fares,” he said.

Land said flights from Dublin to New York will be in and around $499, stating that it is good news for Irish tourism and the economy.

He said JetBlue “absolutely” wants to enter the Irish market and drive down the cost of flights for passengers. 

He added that the new fleet that will be used is a brand new A321 aircraft that is 20% less fuel burn than its existing fleet.

JetBlue has already expressed formally in writing to the airport leadership that they would like to see the passenger cap grow, modestly, said the airline vice-president.

terminal-2-dublin-airport-ireland Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

When The Journal asked him about the boss of Ryanair’s vocal views on the airport cap, he said:

He’s right, in a sense that if the cap is firm, there’s only but so much room when you start trampling on new competition.

“You’re actually then like Amsterdam just did, interfering with the Open Skies Agreement – the air service agreements – between the two countries, the EU and the US. And then that raises legality issues for anybody flying in the market.”

He argued that the cap should increase modestly to ensure that new entrants “are not stymied in their growth”.

“I can’t speak for other carriers. That’s not my place. But he’s right,” Land said of O’Leary. 

IMG_0143 Taoiseach and Irish officials meet with JetBlue's Robert Land at Boston Airport today. Christina Finn Christina Finn

Taoiseach says cap should increase

Varadkar said the cap should be increased in his view, stating that as an island nation, it is the main way for people to travel in and out of the country.  

“In an ideal world, you would redistribute traffic from Dublin to regional airports, all of which are doing quite well at the moment,” he said.

However, the Taoiseach said airlines tell the government, particularly ones that travel transatlantic routes, it “they’ll just send their planes to other countries, not other airports in Ireland”.

“And we have to listen to that,” he added.

There is a planning process underway, the Taoiseach added, before stating:

“Certainly, I believe that the cap should be increased. Not only will it improve our connectivity for business and people visiting friends and relatives, and so on, it will also help bring airfares down.”

Political Editor Christina Finn will be in the US throughout the week for the Taoiseach’s visit. Follow @thejournal_ie and @christinafinn8 for all the latest.

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