SFO may be end of rainbow 

Some luck o’ the Irish graced San Francisco International Airport on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that the airport stands poised to welcome Irish airline Aer Lingus to its terminal sometime this year — if the so-called "open skies" agreement is approved next week by the European Union Council of Transport Ministers.

Newsom said he has already received an official commitment from Aer Lingus to start nonstop service from SFO to the Emerald Isle.

Aer Lingus, flying its trademark green-topped plane graced by a tail-fin shamrock, serves only four cities in the United States because a long-standing aviation agreement restricting flights to certain destinations prevented it from expanding.

"Hopefully it will come to fruition," Newsom said at a news conference Friday.

The airline plans to offer nonstop flights between San Francisco and Ireland — which would be the only such flights at SFO, spokesman Mike McCarron said — five days a week, before eventually expanding to daily service.

Travelers going from San Francisco to Ireland currently have to take a connecting flight once in Europe or in one of the four American cities Aer Lingus serves —Chicago, New York, Boston and Los Angeles — to fly on the airline.

Newsom, calling it a "big deal" economically, said the airline would bring an estimated $110 million in annual revenue to the Bay Area from personnel stationed here, business taxes and an increase in tourism.

Irish Minister for Transport Martin Cullen said many Irish residents want to travel to the West Coast of the United States, in addition to traditional destinations on the eastern seaboard such as New York and Boston.

"What we really want to do is develop more direct links between Ireland and the U.S.," Cullen said.

Though 22 other cities have also expressed interest in a direct connection to Ireland, Cullen said the country’s "number one choice is San Francisco."

tramroop@examiner.com and beslinger@examiner.com

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