Aer Arann was founded in 1970 as a means of transporting passengers from the mainland to the Aran Islands. The company was purchased by Galway entrepreneur Padraig O’Ceidigh in 1994, and he set about transforming the airline. The business has subsequently upgraded its fleet and services to the status of a national carrier and currently serves 15 destinations in both the Irish and UK markets. It has successfully expanded its operation in recent years and is now one of the fastest growing regional airlines in Europe, with current annual turnover levels of 60m.
The company was named Best Regional Airline for 2002. In June 2002, Aer Arann successfully secured the renewal of its tender to operate three of the five Public Service Obligation routes until 2005. These routes are subsidised with an annual government contribution of 5 million. Aer Arann will commence a Dublin to Belfast route within the coming weeks. The government will eagerly welcome the introduction of this route as it is an excellent boost for cross border trade and the new service will help to open the entire island for business.
An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and cabinet ministers have flew with Aer Arann on various official appointments. As past patrons, they may prove useful when Aer Arann target the corporate commuter market and help endorse Aer Arann as a reputable airline. With the current economic environment experiencing a slow down compared to Celtic Tiger times, Aer Arann has managed to maintain successful operations. Its workforce has grown to facilitate the company’s expansion despite the economic challenges presented by September 11th and the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Ireland.
During this economic slow-down, commuters exert cautiousness when spending their limited finances. These limitations mean that they may favour less expensive modes of transport when travelling within Ireland. Financially, bus and rail are deemed the more favourable choice, therefore resulting in the lack of domestic commuters choosing Aer Arann. Ireland is not a country that chooses air as a first mode of transport for domestic travel, unlike countries such as the US.
Some reasons that contribute to air being a less favoured method include, (a) the cost of domestic flights compared to less expensive modes of transport such as road or rail (b) the distance involved in domestic journeys is often relatively short so the cheaper mode of transport often suits or (c) when travelling domestically commuters frequently tend to reflect on the road or rail options, while flying rarely enters the human psyche. To exploit the increased popularity of online shopping and compete effectively with competitors, Aer Arann officially launched its website, www. skyroad.
com, during 2002. The website enables the company to meet the needs of both the business and leisure markets, where high value is placed on convenience and efficiency. Customers now have access to online product information and booking facilities, in a similar fashion that is offered by rival companies. Since its introduction, the site has proved a popular method of booking flights. To allow Aer Arann to provide an optimum online booking experience and compete more effectively with competitors, they recently introduced a new reservation, online booking and check-in system representing an 8 million investment over five years.
The system, Open Skies, facilitates the process of passenger’s online bookings more efficiently and enables the airline to provide enhanced services such as ticketless travel, each way pricing and online booking for future corporate and leisure customers. The system, provided by Navitaire, is used by more than 40 airlines worldwide, including Ryanair. Aer Arann’s investment in Open Skies and promotion of reduced fares if booked online will encourage increased online bookings and establish them as a dot com airline, which is the current trend in the airline industry.