Busi­ness takes off be­tween Europe’s Brexit-chas­ing cities

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Mark Evans

BUSI­NESS is boom­ing be­tween the Brexit job-chas­ing cities of Dublin, Paris and Am­s­ter­dam. Air France-klm’s new head of the UK and Ire­land, Bene­dicte Du­val, re­vealed that the air­line’s Dublin routes have out­per­formed those in the UK so far this year.

With load fac­tors (filled seats) of 87.5pc to Am­s­ter­dam and 87.2pc to Paris Charles De Gaulle, the air­line group is ex­pand­ing its ser­vices here.

From Oc­to­ber 29, KLM will be oper­at­ing five flights a day to Am­s­ter­dam, two us­ing main­line Boe­ing 737 air­craft and three on KLM Ci­ty­hop­per Em­braer 190s.

Air France is switch­ing from full code­share on smaller Ci­ty­jet planes to a daily ser­vice, two op­er­ated by Air France main­line Air­bus 318s, one on its Hop sub­sidiary with Em­braer 190s and one with Ci­ty­jet us­ing an AR8. The air­lines will be fight­ing for mar­ket share with Aer Lin­gus to Paris and with Aer Lin­gus and Ryanair to Am­s­ter­dam.

Both air­lines could ex­pand their ser­vices fur­ther, with Du­val say­ing Air France is “test­ing the wa­ters” at Dublin, and could put more, and larger, Air France main­line air­craft on the route. “Dur­ing the past 18 months the curve, fol­low­ing the eco­nomic re­cov­ery in Ire­land, has been up,” Du­val said.

She con­ceded that the mix of air­craft on the Dublin-paris route could be con­fus­ing for busi­ness pas­sen­gers want­ing con­sis­tency of ser­vice in the cabin, say­ing “ideally all the ser­vices would be main­line”.

While Am­s­ter­dam and Dublin are both com­pet­ing for Lon­don City jobs, their air­ports are also in com­pe­ti­tion as global hubs. Schiphol is some way ahead of Dublin (68 mil­lion pas­sen­gers to un­der 30 mil­lion), but Aer Lin­gus has stated its aim is to develop Dublin fur­ther as a gate­way be­tween Europe and North Amer­ica.

Air France is also aim­ing to push Charles De Gaulle as a transcon­ti­nen­tal hub for more Ir­ish pas­sen­gers, along the lines of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Istanbul.

Paris and Am­s­ter­dam are mir­ror im­ages — just 29pc of traf­fic to Am­s­ter­dam is point to point, with 29pc of pas­sen­gers trans­fer­ring to medium-haul des­ti­na­tions, and 42pc to long haul.

With Charles De Gaulle, over half (53.5pc) is to Paris only; 38pc is medium haul and a mere 8.5pc long haul. The break­down reveals where the Ir­ish are do­ing busi­ness and trav­el­ling — Moscow, Den­mark, Kiev and Lux­em­bourg on the short haul side, and Min­neapo­lis-st Paul, Sao Paulo, Seat­tle, Shanghai and Bei­jing long haul.

With Paris, medium haul is pro­vin­cial France (Mar­seille, Toulouse, Mont­pel­lier) and Moscow, while long haul is sim­i­lar to Schiphol: Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Bei­jing, La­gos (Nige­ria) and Jo­han­nes­burg.

Du­val con­cedes that the com­pe­ti­tion for busi­ness pas­sen­gers on some of its niche routes will heat up, given Aer Lin­gus’s transat­lantic am­bi­tions, the ar­rival of Cathay Pa­cific on the Dublin-hong Kong route and re­ports of Hainan of­fer­ing Dublin to Bei­jing in the near fu­ture.

“We’re never con­fi­dent,” she said. “We have to be com­pet­i­tive as it’s al­ways a chal­lenge.”

Or­gan­is­ers of the re­cent Con­nect17, Ire­land’s sum­mit on busi­ness tourism, might be blow­ing their own trum­pet a bit, but some­one’s got to do it.

Cor­po­rate trav­ellers are well aware of the scale of con­ven­tions abroad (Cologne’s colos­sal Koel­n­messe alone hosts 2,000 con­fer­ences a year), but it’s not a sec­tor that gets that much at­ten­tion here at home.

Con­nect17 brought to­gether 200 buy­ers as well as in­ter­na­tional speak­ers, in­clud­ing the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent’s Gina Lon­don) to ex­plore the MICE (meet­ings in­cen­tives, con­fer­ences and ex­hi­bi­tions) space, and it’s cer­tainly a lu­cra­tive one. Even here, busi­ness tourism is reck­oned to em­ploy about 21,000 peo­ple and was worth €715m (up 7pc) last year. The aim now is to cre­ate a €1.1bn in­dus­try, em­ploy­ing an ad­di­tional 8,000 peo­ple, by 2028.

Dublin’s In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel in Balls­bridge has been named Ire­land’s best busi­ness ho­tel for the sec­ond year run­ning. And while this col­umn can’t give a thumbs up or down to the fa­cil­i­ties (not a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor), one thing is clear — it’s pop­u­lar among the busi­ness com­mu­nity.

A re­cent visit re­vealed a lobby filled with the top brass of about-to-be-sold tech com­pany Vox Pro, blue chip ac­coun­tancy firm fig­ures and a host of air­lines ex­ec­u­tives.

It might be out of the way from the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict hubs, but it came across as a mini-ifsc in the heart of D4.

Bene­dicte Du­val, Air France-klm’s gen­eral manager for the UK and Ire­land, says the French air­line is test­ing the wa­ters with Air­bus A318s here

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