Living on an island and having a keen interest in travel, I can’t help but be intrigued by the discussions regarding IAG’s proposed takeover of Aer Lingus these past weeks, which have certainly gained intensity with Willie Walsh addressing a Dail committee on Thursday 12th February. Whatever the outcome with the national carrier, the airline industry on our little island, even aside from the juggernaut that is Ryanair, appears to be extremely healthy.

The numbers speak volumes… Apparently, there are 20,000 aircraft currently in service globally but, fuelled by the emergence of a growing middle class in developing nations, PwC predicts that by 2030 that number will have risen to 30,000 – with Ireland shaping up to become a major player in financing these purchases (Irish Times).

Last year, 25 million people travelled through Irish airports, with 8 out of 10 people travelling in/out of Dublin airport. The majority of these passengers flew the Dublin-LHR route. London Heathrow is an important hub for both international connections and flights from Cork and Shannon; so I can understand concerns regarding the significance of Aer Lingus’ slots in LHR.

However, trends in the aviation industry are changing rapidly regarding international connections, and other international hubs – such as Dubai International Airport, which overtook LHR as the world’s top hub by international passengers last year – are increasingly offering a viable alternative to established hubs. Both Emirates and Etihad fly twice a day direct to Dubai and Abu Dhabi from Dublin – offering the perfect gateway to connecting flights to Asia and Australia/New Zealand and KLM and Air France offer good flights – via their connection hubs in Paris Charles de Gaulle and Schiphol in Amsterdam – to Africa and Latin America. Even if we were looking for an alternative to Aer Lingus when flying to the USA, perhaps due to connection schedules/availability, Delta’s Atlanta hub offers countless possibilities.

Even though loyalty has a part to play, travel (and logistics in general) is about convenience – that is, value for money, the shortest route and the fastest time. Keeping a healthy network of connections open, both by air and sea, is an essential survival strategy for any island nation – not only for leisure or business travel, but also for trade links.

In my opinion, a deal with IAG will only strengthen our already robust links internationally, for both business and leisure.

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