The United States and Ireland will feel a little closer this autumn following an announcement by Aer Lingus that it is to open a new route from Leeds Bradford (LBA) to Dublin.
From October 23, Aer Lingus Regional, which is operated under a franchise agreement by Stobart Air, will offer twice-daily return flights to Dublin.
The airline expects to carry up to 70,000 customers annually on the new route and hopes it will be particularly popular with travellers heading for North America; onward flights are available to New York, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, San Franciso and Toronto.
Passengers will also benefit from Dublin’s US Customs and Border Pre-Clearance facility – one of only two in Europe – which is manned by US officials and includes customs, immigration and security checks.
Simon Fagan, chief commercial officer of Aer Lingus, said: “In the United States it typically takes one-and-a-half to two hours to get through all the checks, but 95 per cent of our passengers in Dublin are cleared within 30 minutes.
“So when you arrive in the States, you’re treated as a domestic passenger. It’s a huge time saving.”
Mr Fagan said the new route offered great opportunities for the district’s business community and that he hoped to increase flights to four times a day.
“It’s also about giving travellers from Ireland and North America a doorway to Yorkshire. About 20 per cent of ourDublin-bound passengers will be travelling to North America, and about 20 per cent of those coming the other way will be heading for Yorkshire,” he said.
Tony Hallwood, aviation development director at LBA, said he wanted to encourage more business custom, which currently makes up just 20 per cent of the airport’s business.
“The United States is Yorkshire’s largest trading partner, but has been grossly underserviced in the past, and Ireland comes fourth in terms of numbers of tourists to Harrogate district. I think we can expect to see more visitors from both those countries,” he said.
“We’re aiming to make some waves here and show that Leeds City Region – of which the Harrogate district is a major part – can attract business from around the world and punch above its weight.”