By Mitchell Young
WINDSOR LOCKS: A potential $4 billion state budget deficit wasn’t enough to persuade the Malloy administration to end Connecticut’s subsidy of flights from Bradley International Airport to Dublin, Ireland.
A new agreement with Aer Lingus a division of the International Airlines Group is reducing the subsidy from Connecticut, but the airline is likely to receive more than $13.3 million during the next few years from the state in subsidies, landing fee reductions and marketing support. By 2020 the state will likely have paid Aer-Lingus more than $30 million in direct subsidy, reduced fees and marketing support to the airline.
International Airlines Group based in London is the parent company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling. One of the world's largest airline groups with 546 aircraft flying to 279 destinations IAG carries 105 million passengers each year and produced more than $2 billion in profit on $23 billion in sales in 2017.
Governor Dannell Malloy claimed in the press release announcing the revised subsidy that it has encouraged greater economic activity saying, "over the last several years, we have focused our efforts on utilizing this valuable resource to spark growth and increase our economic viability. The addition of Aer Lingus at Bradley has strengthened our economic development efforts, and its success in the Hartford region and ability to provide a direct connection to Europe is having an impact."
While the state didn’t offer any data to support the economic claims the political calcualtions appear to be sound, 18% of Connecticut residents are of Irish origin. Not all Connecticut residents may be happy with subsidizing flights to Dublin however. In May Dublin’s city council voted to join the BDS movement and boycott the State of Israel and that city’s mayor has called for additional controversial boycotts of Israel as well.
Connecticut most recently paid Aer Lingus $4.5 million in subsidy in February when the airline failed to meet revenue goals. The company has received $16 million in subsidies, landing fee reductions and marketing support since the airline first signed up with the state. The $4.5 million payment made in February amounted to approximately $110 per ticket sold.
Aer Lingus does not appear to be growing its business however. The Connecticut Airport Authority reports that there were 41,000 passengers departing Bradley in 2017, and 18,000 in the first six months of 2018
While the direct subsidy is being reduced overall it will still be as much as $13.3 million during the length of the agreement. Aer-Lingus can receive up to $3.8 million in 2018, $3 million in 2019, $2 million in 2020, and no subsidy in 2021. Beyond the $13.3 million of tax payer money to the airline, the CAA waived landing fees and provides marketing support as well.