Bradley Airport put the “International” back into its name Wednesday as a daily flight from Hartford to Ireland gets underway. Irish national carrier Aer Lingus will operate the evening flight to Dublin.
The inaugural flight is full, and Connecticut’s Airport Authority says ticket sales generally have been going well.
President of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, Tony Sheridan is taking a delegation to Ireland Wednesday. He said the direct European connection offers a big opportunity for Connecticut tourism.
"For the longest time we've been trying to get tourists and business travelers to fly into Connecticut," he told WNPR. "When the tourist lands in Boston or in New York, they get captured there. Now we will have them coming in to Hartford, and of course the Mystic region is really a great place to come and visit, so we're very excited about that."
Sheridan said work is already underway to market the benefits of the Connecticut connection in Ireland and Europe.
"Aer Lingus has sent agents throughout the region to talk with the Seaport, the Aquarium - we expect this to be very successful," he said.
The flight will also connect Connecticut's European-oriented businesses more directly with the continent.
"If you just look at Germany alone, we have over 65 businesses that work and operate in Connecticut," said Megan Torrey of the World Affairs Council of Connecticut. "We want to continue to strengthen those relationships. We have great relationships with the UK, with France, with Italy, with growing markets abroad. To make it easy to do business is really important for the economic growth of our state and our region."
Torrey will also be on the inaugural flight, as she goes to visit projects backed by the Ireland Fund. She said for frequent travelers, she's convinced the Hartford option will be attractive.
"We're all so used to taking that two hour trip to New York or Boston, which could easily turn into a four hour trip. Right from Hartford you could be thousands of miles already over the Atlantic Ocean and to your destination."
Aer Lingus and Bradley will hope that opinion is shared by a wide range of travelers. Generally airlines look to operate services more than 80 percent full, to keep routes viable. That means on the Boeing 757 aircraft that will operate this service, more than 150 seats must be full each day.
The state has guaranteed to backstop revenues to the tune of $9 million over the first two years of the flight, in case those numbers aren't reached. Aer Lingus hopes the Dublin flight will become a link to onward flights to continental Europe.
Bradley last had a direct connection with Europe back in 2008, with the short-lived Northwest Airlines service to Amsterdam. That route operated for just over a year until it became a victim of the recession.