Miami-Dublin flights could follow treaties
By Suzy Valentine
Direct flights between Miami and Dublin are in the cards once the US and Irish governments renegotiate bilateral treaties next year.
National carrier Aer Lingus, which operates flights from 12 other US cities to the Irish capital and Shannon, would add flights between Miami International Airport and Dublin.
"We have been in discussions with Aer Lingus regarding a direct route between MIA and Dublin, Ireland," said Greg Chin, media relations coordinator at the Miami-Dade County Aviation Department, "but the current air service bilateral treaties between Ireland and the US do not permit any additional routes."
That, said Mr. Chin, should be resolved next year. "We expect the two governments to work out new treaties in 2006," he said, "that would allow for new city destinations."
The county's tourism chief welcomed news of the new routes, which he expects to swell the number of Irish visitors here.
"Ireland is the big success story of Europe," said William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Its reinvention as a business hub with tax breaks has resulted in higher income levels and a greater propensity among its population to travel. This is a top vacation spot, so it makes sense that the Irish will visit here as they become more affluent."
The bureau has been proactive over the past few years in cultivating interest in travel to Miami-Dade County even though its statistics indicate that Irish visitors account for fewer than 25,000 overnight stays each year.
A team from "Ireland AM," the Irish equivalent of the "Today" show, broadcast shows from here in February 2004, and county tourism representatives have appeared on the show.
In July 2004, the bureau played host to journalists from Irish newspaper The Sunday World and in February entertained their peers from rival The Sunday Tribune.
"It's like the chicken and egg," said Mr. Talbert. "We say: 'Which came first, the visitors or the lift?'"
Aer Lingus flies to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, DC.
Miami-Dade County residents with family in Ireland now must fly either to an airport that has connections to Ireland or to an alternative European city and transfer from there.
"It's horrible," said Pat Forde, president of Forde's Functional Fashions who in September visited cousins in Sligo County. "You have to go to Boston or JFK and transfer."
A resident of Miami Beach and her husband are trying alternative routes to Ireland this week.
"We're flying to Ireland and my husband's going via Chicago," said Kathleen Foley-Schmacht, president of the Miami Beach chapter of the Irish Peace Institute Foundation, "but I am flying to Paris first."
"There are a huge number of Irish people, perhaps not in Miami-Dade but, say, Collier County that would rather pick up a flight here than in Atlanta," said Ms. Foley-Schmacht. "If the availability is there, I believe some people with interests in Ireland would fly three or four times a year."
The Irish should also flock to Miami, Ms. Forde said.
"As Miami touts itself as a world-class city, so there should be connections to the big European cities and fewer layovers," she said. "The Irish love the beach and the sun."