Gov. Dan Malloy announced last Wednesday that Hartford’s Bradley International Airport will resume trans-Atlantic service in September 2016 — a move that local businesses applauded.
The airport ceased trans-Atlantic service in 2008 due to restructuring after Northwest airlines merged with Delta. Once service resumes, a new trans-Atlantic flight from Bradley to Dublin will be operated by Irish airline company Aer Lingus. The continuation of service was announced after groups such as the Connecticut Airport Authority, Connecticut congressmen and the MetroHartford alliance lobbied for trans-Atlantic flights to return to Bradley. The lobbyists said the new Bradley to Dublin flight will help develop business in Connecticut and connect them to European markets.
“It’s an extraordinary asset to have,” Oz Griebel, CEO of MetroHartford Alliance, said. “It helps in retaining jobs we have, and in growing jobs.”
The successful lobbying was due largely in part to Malloy’s involvement, said Kevin Dillon, executive director and CEO of the Connecticut Airport Authority — the group charged with revitalizing Connecticut’s airports. Dillon said Malloy proposed financial incentives that helped to attract Aer Lingus to Bradley. The incentive will provide up $4.5 million taken from the Department of Economic and Community Development to cover any of the airline’s potential losses. Bradley will also give Aer Lingus an additional $5 million in fee waivers and marketing money as part of a separate agreement.
Dillon said the state-funded financial incentive is worth the benefits of having international flights in Connecticut. The new flights to and from Dublin will make shipping international cargo more convenient, he said. He added that the Bradley-to-Dublin flight also has the advantage of being pre-cleared, so travelers will not have to go through customs upon arrival.
“When you arrive back here in Bradley you arrive as if you are a domestic passenger, a big time saver to the business community,” Dillon said. “You don’t have the hassle of clearing customs at JFK.”
Dillon added that Dublin also provides a convenient connection for travelers in Europe. He said many travelers who currently connect through London area airports will consider switching to a Dublin connection. Because Aer Lingus looks to build up the Dublin hub to rival Heathrow, travellers may find that the airline has made the connection more convenient, he said.
Proponents of the flight said the Dublin airport will provide easy access to the European marketplaces for business travelers, the group to which these flights will be most heavily marketed.
“[Access to international flights] opens up some doors in terms of international cargo and gives us an opportunity to get back into the cargo business.” Dillon said. “It’s good for area businesses to be connected to the global economy and to be able to ship goods internationally.”
Dillon said the Connecticut Airport Authority looks to the business community to support the flight from Bradley, which does not attract equally as many travelers as surrounding airports like New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Boston’s Logan International Airport.
Yale students who fly regularly from surrounding airports said the addition of the flight will likely not have a big impact on their commutes home, even if they plan on travelling internationally.
“If they offer direct flights to Paris then I’ll probably consider this, but so far I would still fly through JFK because of the convenience of a direct flight,” Yannis Messaoui ’19 said.
Dillon said while consumers may have concerns that the single-destination flight from Bradley to Dublin does not fit their needs, increasing community buy-in will “snowball” into additional carriers, flights and destinations. For instance, he added, if consumers demand more trans-Atlantic flights, the airline might be persuaded to expand their services in Bradley.
The new flight will include one evening departure from Bradley and one afternoon departure from Dublin.